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.
Allianz National Football League Division One
Down v Monaghan, Saturday, 7.30, Páirc Esler, Newry
After three straight defeats, Monaghan need to get back to winning ways when they travel to Newry to play Down on Saturday evening in round five of the NFL Division One. Last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists Down are third in Division One with five points from four games, three points and four places ahead of second-from-bottom Monaghan.
Monaghan started off with a win over Galway, but have lost narrowly to Armagh, Cork and Dublin. The manner of the one-point losses against Armagh and Dublin was frustrating, as Monaghan could easily have won either or both of those games. Down carried their form from last summer into this year’s league, following up a draw away to Mayo with wins over Galway and Armagh, but a heavy defeat in Cork last Saturday was a setback to their hopes of qualifying for the final. Down reached the Division Two decider last year, where they lost to Armagh.
The sides haven’t met in the league in more than ten years and their last clash in any competition was a memorable Ulster first-round win for Monaghan in Newry on the day when Ciarán Hanratty announced his arrival on the county scene with a brace of goals.
Monaghan are set to be without Darren Hughes for this game after he was stretchered off last Sunday, while Gavin Doogan is also set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines with an ankle injury and doubts remain over Owen Duffy’s availability. Eamon McEneaney may be able to call on Tommy Freeman and Owen Lennon, however, after they came off the bench in each of the last three games. The Monaghan manager will be hoping that Colin Walshe, Kieran Duffy, Christopher McGuinness and Dermot Malone come through Wednesday’s Ulster Under-21 championship game against Derry unscathed.
Down have three current All-Star forwards in Benny Coulter, Marty Clarke and Danny Hughes, as well as All-Star goalkeeper Brendan McVeigh. Kevin McKernan, Ronan Murtagh and Dan Gordon are also likely to play key roles for the Mourne men, who are near full-strength with the exception of Aidan Branagan, who is suspended after his red card against Cork.
Monaghan NFL scorers 2011:
Paul Finlay 0-19 (16f)
Conor McManus 1-14 (0-5f)
Owen Duffy 1-3
Christopher McGuinness, Mark Downey, Dick Clerkin 0-4 each
Dessie Mone 0-2
Neil McAdam, Conor Galligan, Tommy Freeman 0-1 each
Ulster Minor Hurling League Division Two
Monaghan v Fermanagh, Saturday, 4.00, Clones
Monaghan start their Ulster Minor Hurling League campaign a week later than planned with a home game against Fermanagh on Saturday. They were due to have played Tyrone last week, but the game was postponed due to snow in Omagh. Monaghan hammered Fermanagh in last year’s competition, but the Erne county got their own back with a shock win in the championship. Fergal Rafter, Brian Greenan and Liam Savage should be key players for Monaghan.
There are also games on the club scene. The Monaghan Electrical Intermediate Football League gets underway on Saturday when Rockcorry host Aughnamullen, while Tyholland take on Éire Óg on Sunday. In the Gerry’s Takeaway, Ballybay Junior Football League, Clones make the long trip to Toome and Aghabog have home advantage against Cremartin. There are games in all four divisions of the Reserve Football Leagues. Meanwhile, Monaghan’s representatives continue their campaigns in the Ulster Club Senior Hurling League.