Preview by Colm Shalvey
Ulster Bank Ulster Inter-County Vocational Schools Football Championship Final
Monaghan v Donegal, Friday, 1.00, Omagh
Monaghan will be attempting to win a fourth successive Ulster vocational schools football championship when they play Donegal in the final once again.
Monaghan have beaten Donegal in the last three provincial deciders, so Donegal will be gunning to avoid a fourth defeat in as many years. Monaghan have enjoyed unprecedented success in the competition in recent years, reaching the last three All-Ireland finals, winning one in 2009. Donegal sent out a declaration of their intent to win this year’s title with a comprehensive win over Derry in the semi-finals, while Monaghan had a four-point victory against Tyrone.
Owen Coyle, Cillian Coleman, Ciarán McCaffrey, Johnny McGuigan, Thomas Kerr and Shane McGuinness return from last year’s Monaghan team, who lost to Cork in the All-Ireland final, while Adam Treanor and Donal Courtney can also play big parts. Donegal can call on seven of last year’s team, including rising star Patrick McBrearty, John O’Malley, Barry Griffin, Dara White and Christopher McGlynn.
BT Ulster Colleges MacRory Cup Quarter-Final
St. Macartan’s College, Monaghan v St. Michael’s, Enniskillen, Saturday 12.00, Ballygawley
St. Macartan’s College take on McCormick Cup winners St. Michael’s Enniskillen in the MacRory Cup quarter-finals at the Errigal Ciarán club grounds near Ballygawley, Co Tyrone on Saturday.
The Sem finished third in Section A of the league section. They won three of their five group games – beating St. Michael’s Lurga, St. Pat’s, Cavan and St. Mary’s, Magherafelt – with their two defeats coming against St. Pat’s, Dungannon and Omagh CBS. Enniskillen finished joint-top of Section B after wins over the two Newry schools, St. Colman’s and Abbey CBS, and St. Pat’s, Maghera. Their only defeat to date was with a weakened team against St. Pat’s, Armagh when the Fermanagh school had already qualified for the quarter-finals, so they are certain to be tough opponents for the Sem.
Shane Carey, Christopher and Pádraig McKenna, Liam Hahessy, Fergal McGeough and Mel Boyce will be expected to play key roles for the Sem. St. Michael’s will be looking for big performances from their three Ulster Colleges All-Stars Aidan Breen, Richard Donnelly and Ruairí Corrigan (a son of manager Dominic), as well as Seán Quigley and Brian Owens.
Allianz National Football League Division One
Monaghan v Galway, Sunday, 2.30, Inniskeen
Monaghan and Galway get their Allianz National Football League Division One campaigns underway on Sunday in Inniskeen, with both teams facing into the season with new managers at the helm.
Monaghan legend Eamon McEneaney has returned to his native county for a second term in charge. He previously managed Monaghan in the late 1990s before spending four years with Louth. Tomás Ó Flatharta takes the reins in Galway for his first league game today. The Kerry native served as Westmeath manager between 2005 and 2009, after helping the Lake county to their first-ever Leinster senior title under Páidí Ó Sé in 2004. Today, Ó Flatharta leads Galway into their 14th successive season in Division One.
Games between the counties have been few and far between over the years, although they did meet in last year’s league in Salthill. Monaghan battled back from a five-point half-time deficit to trail by just a point that day, but red cards for Paul Finlay and Gavin Doogan affected their chances and Galway pulled away to win by six. The Tribesmen finished fifth in the league with six points, two points ahead of Monaghan, who stayed in the top flight as they had a better score-difference than Tyrone and a better scoring record than Derry, both of whom they had beaten.
Monaghan went on to reach the Ulster final, only to fall short on the big day against Tyrone, while Galway’s only win of a disappointing championship was in New York. Defeats against Sligo and Wexford spelled the end of Joe Kernan’s brief tenure in the west.
Neither team progressed beyond the group stages of their respective pre-season competitions. Monaghan used the Dr. McKenna Cup to experiment, with Dick Clerkin and Paul Finlay the only two players who started last year’s Ulster final to feature in the defeats to Queen’s University, Derry and Cavan. A number of new players were given their chance and some of them are likely to feature today, as several established players are still unavailable. Monaghan will, however, be able to welcome their college players back, including Colin Walshe, Conor McManus and Neil McAdam.
Galway started their Connacht FBD League campaign with a win over Sligo, but a defeat to NUIG ended their hopes of qualifying for the final. They won’t be too worried about missing out, though, as they had a comprehensive victory against IT Sligo in their last game. Seán Armstrong, Matthew Clancy, Finian Hanley, Cillian de Paor and Kieran Fitzgerald are likely to play key roles for Galway, particularly in the absences of Michael Meehan and Pádraic and Nicky Joyce.
This is the second National Football League game to be played in Inniskeen – the first one saw Monaghan edge an exciting game against Tyrone – and the Farney county will be hoping to make it a productive home venue with three of their four home games in this year’s league set to be played at Páirc Grattan. A good start is essential in this very competitive division, so both teams will be determined to hit the ground running on Sunday.
Bord Gáis Ladies National Football League Division One
Monaghan v Tyrone, Sunday, 2.00, Emyvale
Monaghan’s ladies footballers also begin their league campaign on Sunday with a local derby against Tyrone in Emyvale.
Monaghan have made a flying start to 2011, as they have already won the Dowd Cup, beating UUJ in the final, while they hammered Tyrone in a Dowd Cup preliminary-round game. Ulster champions Monaghan, who are under the management of Gregory McGonigle this year, will be looking for big performances from the likes of Cathriona McConnell, Ciara and Aoife McAnespie, Sharon Courtney and Amanda Casey. Tyrone, who surprised many by their run through the qualifiers all the way to the All-Ireland final last year, can call on four current All-Stars – Gemma Begley, Cathy and Joline Donnelly and Sinéad McLaughlin.