Allianz National Football League Division One
Monaghan v Dublin, Sunday, 2.30, Clones
Monaghan welcome in-form Dublin to Clones on Sunday in the NFL Division One.
Monaghan won their only home game to date against Galway, but defeats away to Armagh and Cork have seen them drop to joint fifth in the table. Monaghan clung onto Division One status by the narrowest of margins last year and despite encouraging performances so far, a defeat here would see them in danger of being dragged into another relegation battle. Meanwhile, table-toppers Dublin have made an impressive start to their campaign with wins over Armagh, Cork and Kerry, making them one of just three teams in the country with a 100% record after three games.
The Dubs, of course, were tantalisingly close to a breakthrough last year, when they lost by a point to eventual winners Cork in the All-Ireland semi-finals. Having only missed out on the league final on score-difference last year, the Dubs are targeting NFL success for the first time in 18 years.
Pat Gilroy’s men appear to be taking the league very seriously this year and Monaghan’s back line will have to be at their best as the Dublin forwards have been in free-scoring form. The Dubs have hit 8-35 in three games, an average of almost 20 points per game, making them easily the highest scorers in Division One. Monaghan are the division’s third highest scorers with 1-44, while both teams have concession rates on the high side (Dublin 2-42 and Monaghan 2-40), so a high-scoring game is in prospect.
This is the first time Monaghan have played Dublin at home since 1997 when Dublin beat them in Clones. The last four meetings of the teams were played at Parnell Park. Monaghan beat the Dubs in 1998 and 2006 and came from four points down with just five minutes to salvage a draw in 2008, but they fell to a five-point defeat last year, when Dessie Mone was sent off.
Dick Clerkin, Dessie Mone, Paul Finlay and Darren Hughes are key players for Monaghan, while Tommy Freeman and Owen Lennon could be in contention after they featured as subs in the last two games. A number of newcomers have put forward their claims for places in the team so far this year, including Mark Keogh, Christopher McGuinness, David Hughes, James Turley and Gavin Doogan, although Doogan misses out this time after injuring his ankle in a club game last Sunday.
Dublin can call on Footballer of the Year Bernard Brogan, along with former All-Stars Stephen Cluxton, Barry Cahill, Alan Brogan. Kevin McManamon, Tomás Quinn and Michael Darragh MacAuley have also shown well for Dublin so far this year and they could have the likes of Kevin Nolan and Ross O’Carroll back after their All-Ireland club semi-final defeat with Kilmacud Crokes. They will, however, be without full-forward Eoghan O’Gara, who has been suspended for eight weeks for his part in an altercation with Marc Ó Sé in the Kerry game, while Cian O’Sullivan is struggling with a hamstring injury.
The Monaghan team shows three changes from the Cork game. Vincent Corey makes his first start of the season at wing-back, while Neil McAdam moves to wing-forward, Owen Lennon replaces Brendan McKenna at midfield and Mark Downey returns in place of the injured Owen Duffy. Dublin make four changes from the team that beat Kerry. MacAuley is in for O’Gara, with Diarmuid Connolly moving to full-forward, while Darren Daly, Ross O’Carroll and Ger Brennan start in place of Alan Hubbard, Michael Fitzsimons and James McCarthy in defence.
Monaghan NFL scorers 2011:
Paul Finlay 0-16 (13f)
Conor McManus 0-12 (5f)
Owen Duffy 1-3
Dick Clerkin 0-4
Mark Downey, Christopher McGuinness 0-3 each
Dessie Mone, Neil McAdam, Conor Galligan 0-1 each
Allianz National Hurling League Division Three B
Sligo v Monaghan, Sunday, 2.30, Enniscrone *
* Note change of venue from Tubbercurry to Enniscrone
Monaghan’s hurlers will be desperate to get off the mark in the NHL Division 3B in a relegation four-pointer away to Sligo on Sunday.
Both sides are without a point so far in this year’s league. Monaghan have lost all three of their games – against Fingal, Louth and Donegal – while Sligo’s two appearances have brought defeats at the hands of Louth and Roscommon. The teams last met in the league in the 2009 Division Four Final, when Sligo edged to victory after extra-time.
Monaghan manager Frank Brady has called on his team to produce a big performance and up their work-rate. Stephen Lambe, Trevor Hilliard, Ronan Meegan, Gary Boyd, Deaglán Crowe and Éanna Mac Suibhne will have to be at the top of their game for Monaghan, while Mickey McHugh could continue in goals in place of the injured Hugh Byrne. Keith Raymond, Declan Loughnane and Niall Cadden are among the main men for Sligo.
Ulster Minor Hurling League Division Two
Tyrone v Monaghan, Saturday, 12.00, Omagh
Monaghan start their Ulster Minor Hurling League campaign with an away game against Tyrone on Saturday. Tyrone won this competition last year, beating Monaghan on the way. Fergal Rafter, Brian Greenan and Liam Savage should be key players for Monaghan.
Bord Gáis Ladies National Football League Division One
Galway v Monaghan, Sunday, 2.00, Mountbellew
Monaghan’s ladies footballers will be aiming to maintain their 100% record when they travel to Galway on Sunday.
Having won the pre-season O’Dowd Cup, Monaghan are top of the Division One table after winning their first four league games, beating Tyrone, Mayo, Cork and Kildare. Galway have had a mixed start. They picked up their first win last time out against a struggling Mayo side after drawing two of their first three games against Tyrone and Kildare, having lost to Donegal in round one.
Monaghan will be looking to Cathriona McConnell, Ciara and Aoife McAnespie, Amanda Casey, Therese McNally, Ellen McCarron and Caoimhe Mohan to continue their good form and help them gain a fifth successive win.
This weekend also sees the start of the Monaghan Reserve Football Leagues, with games in all four divisions.
Cadbury’s Ulster Under-21 Football Championship First Round
Monaghan v Derry, Wednesday, 8.00, Inniskeen
Monaghan face Derry in the Ulster Under-21 FC first round under lights in Inniskeen on Wednesday night.
Monaghan reached the final of the Cremartin-run Shamrock Cup after wins over Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone. A strongly-fancied Tyrone team proved too strong in the decider, but Eamon McEneaney, Declan Smyth and Stephen McGinnity can still take several positives from the competition.
Derry, however, have the benefit of having a championship game under their belts, as they beat Armagh in Wednesday night’s preliminary round. The Oak Leaf county conceded three goals in the opening half, having played with the wind, but they recovered well to win by 2-10 to 3-3. Cailean O’Boyle and Benny Herron scored 2-7 between them for Derry and they will be expected to play key roles along with the likes of Emmet McGuckin, Lee Moore, Aaron Devlin and Carlus McWilliams.
Monaghan will be hoping that their senior players come through Sunday’s NFL game against Dublin unscathed, with Colin Walshe, Kieran Duffy and Christopher McGuinness all named to start and Dermot Malone included in the subs. Those four players were on the Monaghan team that lost to Cavan in the semi-finals last year, as well as David Millar, Peter O’Hara and Mattie O’Reilly, who will all be expected to lead the way on Wednesday night, as well as young Truagh star Daniel McKenna. Monaghan will be without Kieran Hughes, though, as the Scotstown player is still recovering from a knee operation.