Previews (May 21-22)
Monaghan’s Nicky Rackard Cup semi-final against Louth takes centre stage this weekend, while there is also a busy programme of club football matches.
Nicky Rackard Cup Semi-Final
Monaghan v Louth, Saturday, 2.30, Clones
Monaghan will be hoping to qualify for their first Nicky Rackard Cup Final when they take on Louth in Saturday’s semi-final at Clones.
After being relegated from Division 3B of the National Hurling League, Monaghan went into their first-round game against Fingal as clear underdogs, but they produced their best performance of the year so far to deservedly upset the odds. However, Frank Brady’s side will have to find another gear if they are to get past Louth, who have already played three times in the competition. Louth started off with a comprehensive win over Sligo and although they fell to a similarly one-sided defeat against London, they bounced back to edge past Roscommon by the narrowest of margins.
Louth finished third in Division 3B with eight points from their six games. The Wee county started off with three straight wins at the expense of Sligo, Monaghan and Fingal, but they just missed out on a place in the final after losing to Mayo and Roscommon, either side of a big win over Donegal. When the sides met in the league earlier this year, Louth were comfortable winners and they have also beaten Monaghan twice in the Nicky Rackard Cup – including in the 2008 semi-final after extra-time – so the Farney men have unfinished business with their Leinster rivals.
Monaghan will once again be depending on the accuracy, particularly from frees, of Mickey McHugh, who scored 1-13 against Fingal, while Stephen Lambe, Ronan Meegan and Éanna Mac Suibhne are other key forwards. Trevor Hilliard, formerly a star player with Louth, is now a driving force for Monaghan at midfield, with Paul Murphy, Pauric Dowdall and Alan Lambe are the main men in defence. Louth can call on several players with great experience and quality – among them Diarmuid Murphy, Brian Corcoran, Diarmuid O’Sullivan, David Dunne, Gerard Smyth and Shane Callan.
This weekend sees the last senior club league games before Monaghan’s Ulster SFC game against Tyrone.
In the Drumlin Group of Credit Unions Senior Football League, Truagh host Doohamlet on Saturday evening, while the other eight teams are in action on Sunday. The main attraction is the ‘Game of the Weekend’ at 5pm in Clontibret, when the county champions host league leaders Ballybay. Clontibret have had mixed fortunes so far this year but they will still offer perhaps the sternest test to date of Ballybay’s credentials. The Pearse Brothers hold the only remaining unbeaten record in the SFL, as they have won five and drawn one of their six games. At 2.30, there is a local derby between Monaghan Harps and Scotstown and a meeting of fierce rivals Latton and Magheracloone, while Castleblayney travel to Inniskeen.
In the Monaghan Electrical Intermediate Football League, Éire Óg make the long-awaited return to their newly-redeveloped home ground in Smithborough with a game against high-flying Carrickmacross on Saturday evening. On Sunday, table-toppers Corduff are away to Rockcorry, Currin are at home to Aughnamullen, Seán McDermotts take on Donaghmoyne and Tyholland have home advantage against Drumhowan.
In the Gerry’s Takeaway, Ballybay Junior Football League, Cremartin will be looking to maintain their 100% record when they host Toome, while Aghabog play Blackhill, Emyvale face Clones and Killeevan go up against Oram. There are also a number of reserve games spread over the weekend.
Meanwhile, the county senior footballers continue their preparations for the Tyrone game on June 5 with a challenge match against Dublin at Parnell Park on Friday evening.