Previews by Colm Shalvey
Allianz National Football League Division One
Armagh v Monaghan, Sunday, 2.45, Athletic Grounds
Monaghan will be hoping to build on their impressive opening win over Galway when they make the short trip to the newly-redeveloped Athletic Grounds to play Armagh on Sunday.
Monaghan were the highest scorers in Division One on the first weekend of NFL 2011, as they hit 19 points in a five-point win at home to the Tribesmen. It was an encouraging start to Eamon McEneaney’s second term in charge, particularly with nine players making their league debuts. Meanwhile, Armagh put up a decent showing on the reopening of their home ground, but they still lost out to Dublin.
The teams won’t need to be introduced to each other, as they have clashed a number of times in recent years, most recently in last year’s championship when Monaghan had a comprehensive win in the Ulster first round. The Farney men went on to reach the Ulster final, but they suffered a big defeat against Tyrone. Armagh, who won the NFL Division Two title last year, were knocked out of the championship in the third round of the qualifiers by Dublin. After Armagh’s dominance in the first part of the last decade, the tide has turned in Monaghan’s favour of late – they also beat their neighbours in the 2009 championship and the league in ’09 and ’08.
Monaghan will be looking for Paul Finlay, Dick Clerkin and Dessie Mone to lead the way, while they will also hope that young players like Kieran Duffy, David Hughes and Christopher McGuinness can build on their excellent debuts. Vincent Corey, Owen Lennon and Darren Hughes are on their way back and they could potentially play some part in this one. Armagh are without their Crossmaglen contingent, who are preparing for yet another All-Ireland club semi-final, but Paddy O’Rourke still has players of the calibre of Steven McDonnell, Gareth Swift, Brendan Donaghy, Charlie Vernon, Andy Mallon, Finnian Moriarty and Paul Duffy available, although it is unclear how close Ronan Clarke is to making a return from his long-term injury.
A win for Monaghan would represent a great start, while Armagh will be determined to get their first points of the campaign.
Allianz National Hurling League Division 3B
Louth v Monaghan, Sunday, 2.30, Darver*
* Note change of venue
Monaghan will be hoping to show a big improvement on their first 2011 NHL match against Fingal when they travel to Dundalk to play Louth on Sunday. Monaghan fell to a heavy defeat in Fingal in their first game in Division 3B after being promoted last year when they won Division Four.
Monaghan won all six games in last year’s league, but they face a big step-up this year, which is set to continue against a Louth team who hammered Sligo last Sunday.
Louth finished third in Division 3B, behind Roscommon only on score-difference. This is the first time Monaghan have played Louth in the league in Frank Brady’s term in charge, although they met in the Nicky Rackard Cup in 2008 and 2009, both of which produced narrow wins for Louth.
Stephen and Alan Lambe and Jim McHugh have recently returned to the Monaghan panel and they are likely to play key roles along with the likes of Mickey McHugh, Deaglán Crowe, Paul Murphy and Ronan Meegan. Gerard Smyth, Shane Callan, Diarmuid Murphy, Brian Corcoran and Diarmuid O’Sullivan are among the main men for Louth.
Bord Gáis Ladies National Football League Division One
Monaghan v Cork, Sunday, 2.00, Emyvale
Monaghan’s ladies footballers will be attempting to continue their 100% start to the NFL when they host Cork on Sunday.
Monaghan started the year well by winning the Dowd Cup and they have carried that form into the league with wins over Tyrone and Mayo. Cork, who relinquished their All-Ireland title last year after five years as champions, began their campaign with a straightforward victory against Kildare after their opener against Mayo was postponed.
Cathriona McConnell, Ciara and Aoife McAnespie, Amanda Casey, Sharon Courtney, Ellen McCarron and Therese McNally are key players for Monaghan, while Cork will be relying on Valerie Mulcahy (who scored a hat-trick last Sunday), Juliet Murphy, Nollaig Cleary and Amy O’Shea.