It’s a busy weekend in prospect, with Monaghan’s minor footballers and senior hurlers both in action, while the Junior Football Championship also gets up and running.
ESB Ulster Minor Football Championship First Round
Monaghan v Tyrone, Sunday, 7.00, Enniskillen
Monaghan’s minor footballers take on Tyrone at Brewster Park on Sunday evening in the first round of the Ulster MFC.
Monaghan had no success in the Ulster Minor Football League, as defeats to Armagh and Cavan saw them knocked out, after a first-round victory against Down, but Colin McAree used the games to try out everyone on his panel in an effort to work out his best 15. Monaghan then went into the shield semi-final, where they lost by a point to Sunday’s opponents Tyrone after letting a four-point lead slip. Monaghan may have lost that game, but they showed enough to prove that they can at least compete with Sunday’s opponents, who are the defending All-Ireland champions.
Monaghan’s panel is dominated by players who were either on the St. Macartan’s College MacRory Cup team or the county vocational schools side that reached the Ulster final, while Tyrone can choose players from their vocational side and two MacRory schools: St. Pat’s, Dungannon and Omagh CBS. Monaghan’s recent record against Tyrone at minor level is poor, but they will be determined to rectify that on Sunday.
Monaghan’s chances will depend largely on the players who return from 2010, including captain Johnny McGuigan, Pádraig McKenna, Conor Boyle and Cillian Cromwell. Thomas Kerr is the main score-taker, while Mel Boyce and Pádraic Keenan could also play key roles. Tyrone have lost the vast majority of last year’s Ulster and All-Ireland title-winning team, but they can still call on quality players like Enda McGahan, Philip Barker, Ryan Devlin, Aidan McGarrity and Seán Hackett.
Ulster Senior Hurling Championship Quarter-Final
Monaghan v Armagh, Sunday, 3.30, Newry
Following their exit from the Nicky Rackard Cup, Monaghan’s senior hurlers turn their attentions to the Ulster SHC with Sunday’s match against Armagh at Páirc Esler.
Monaghan pushed Louth all the way in the Rackard semi-final last Saturday, but the Wee county pulled clear in the dying minutes. Frank Brady’s men will be hoping to bounce back, but they will be up against it this week.
Armagh have made great strides in hurling in recent years – winning the Nicky Rackard Cup last year and reaching Ulster Under-21 and minor finals – drawing praise from Ulster Council President Aogán Ó Fearghail at the launch of the Ulster championship. Their momentum was checked somewhat, however, by relegation from Division 3A of the National Hurling League, while Monaghan slipped out of Division 3B.
Monaghan had a bye through the first round of the championship after Cavan’s withdrawal, while Armagh had a high-scoring win over Fermanagh. That game was level with 20 minutes left, but Armagh finished very strongly, scoring four goals to eventually win comfortably. The sides met in the SHC two years ago, when Armagh had 14 points to spare.
Stephen Lambe, Trevor Hilliard, Paul Murphy, Gary Boyd and Éanna Mac Suibhne have been going well for Monaghan, while they will be hoping for more from Mickey McHugh, who had a quiet game last week after his tour de force in the previous game against Fingal. Armagh have hurlers of the calibre of Paul McCormack, Declan Coulter, Ger Enright, Conor Corvan, Ryan Gaffney and Cathal Carvill in their ranks.
Universal Graphics Junior Football Championship
Cremartin v Fergal O’Hanlons, Friday, 7.30, Clontibret
Aghabog v Oram, Sunday, 1.45, Ballybay
Clones v Killeevan, Sunday, 3.15, Ballybay
The Universal Graphics Junior Football Championship gets underway this weekend, with three games down for decision.
On Friday evening, Cremartin will be expected to get through their first-round game against Fergal O’Hanlons with little bother. Cremartin reached the finals of both league and championship last year and they are determined to achieve promotion this year, as shown by their perfect start to the season – they have won four out of four in the Junior Football League.
There is a JFC double-header in Ballybay on Sunday, starting with the game between Aghabog and Oram. Aghabog were relegated from intermediate last year after a disastrous season, while Oram were unable to make any impact in the championship.
Oram are second in the JFL table with six points from five games, while Aghabog have four points from six games. Oram had a six-point win when the sides met in April, but it’s likely to be a closer game this time.
Seán and Shane O’Brien, Gary McBride, Francie Dolan and Mark McBride will be expected to lead the way for Aghabog, while Ryan McGuinness, Stephen McBride, Cathal Crowe and Seán Graham are among the main men for Oram.
Part two of the double-bill is a local derby between Clones and Killeevan. Neither side has shown great form so far in the league, as they have only won one game each. Clones have drawn three of their six games, leaving them in mid-table, while Killeevan are second-from-bottom with three points from five games.
Killeevan reserved their best form for the championship last year, as they reached the semi-finals, where they lost to eventual champions Corduff, while Clones also got to the last four, only to lose out to Cremartin.
Killeevan will be looking for big performances from Noel Smith, Kevin McGinn, Darren Quigley, Vincent Martin and Ian Larmer, while Clones, who have lost a number of players from last year, will be depending on Adrian Alford, David Freeman, Danny Rooney, Darragh Graham and Colin McCaughey to lead the way.