The county senior footballers take centre stage on Saturday when they play Offaly in the qualifiers, but it’s also quite a busy weekend on the club scene, including three games in the Universal Graphics Junior Football Championship.
All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Qualifiers Round One
Offaly v Monaghan, Saturday, 7.00, Tullamore
Monaghan will be attempting to relaunch their SFC campaign when they travel to Tullamore for a first-round qualifier against Offaly on Saturday evening.
Monaghan were knocked out of the Ulster championship with a first-round defeat to Tyrone, having played more than half the game with 14 men after Dick Clerkin was sent off (the Monaghan captain’s second yellow card was subsequently rescinded). The Farney men will be without Dessie Mone, however, as he is suspended after being shown a straight red in the dying minutes of the Tyrone game. Meanwhile, Offaly fell to a heavy defeat against a Wexford side that also impressed against Westmeath last time out.
Neither county had luck on their side in the National Football League. Monaghan were relegated from Division One on their head-to-head record with Armagh despite wins over Galway and Mayo. Offaly finished in a three-way tie for second place in Division Three, but missed out on promotion to Louth, who had a better score-difference. Offaly had wins over Cavan, Limerick, Louth and Waterford, but they lost to Wexford, Tipperary and Westmeath.
The Monaghan team named by Eamon McEneaney shows three changes from the Tyrone game. Donal Morgan replaces the injured Colin Walshe at corner-back, while Bernard O’Brien and Christopher McGuinness come in for their first SFC starts in the forward line. Neil McAdam moves to wing-back, while Darren Hughes slots in at centre-back. Vincent Corey and David Hughes are not yet ready to start, but both are on the bench, while Walshe and Stephen Gollogly join Shane Smyth and Gavin Doogan on the injured list.
Paul Finlay and Conor McManus will be expected to once again hit the bulk of Monaghan’s scores, while Darren Hughes, Clerkin and Owen Lennon also central figures.
Offaly’s main man is undoubtedly Niall McNamee, who is one of the most dangerous forwards around on his day. The Faithful county will also be looking to the vastly experienced Ciarán McManus to lead the way, as well as Richie Dalton, Karol Slattery and Scott Brady.
Universal Graphics Junior Football Championship
Blackhill v Oram, Thursday, 7.30, Toome
It’s last-chance-saloon time for neighbours Blackhill and Oram in the JFC on Thursday evening. Both teams can take positives from their performances in the championship to date, but both ultimately lost out.
Oram looked to be on their way to a comfortable preliminary-round win over Aghabog when they led by nine points midway through the second half, but they conceded 1-6 without reply in the final quarter. That sent the tie to a replay, which Aghabog won by a point after extra-time. Meanwhile, Blackhill lost by four points against one of the leading contenders, Emyvale. Both sides will be hoping to get on a run in the back door after making early exits last year. Blackhill are bottom of the JFL with just one win to their name, while Oram are mid-table with eight points, but there was just a point between the sides when they met last Sunday, a game which Oram won by the minimum margin.
Ryan and Johnny McGuinness, Pauric and Seán Graham, Cathal Crowe should play key roles for Oram, while Colin Woods, Ryan and Donal Courtney and Philip Donnelly are the main men for Blackhill.
Universal Graphics Junior Football Championship First Round
Aghabog v Clones, Friday, 7.45, Scotstown
Aghabog and Clones go head-to-head in the last of the JFC first-round games on Friday evening. Both teams have already won games in the championship, as they edged through closely-contested preliminary-round matches.
Aghabog eventually saw off Oram by a point after extra-time in a replay, having come back from nine points down in the drawn game, while Clones produced a comeback of their own to beat Clones by the same margin. Aghabog were relegated from intermediate last year, while Clones again reached the JFC semi-finals, only to lose to Cremartin. Clones are third in the JFL with nine points from the same number of games, while Aghabog are struggling as they sit second-from-bottom with just four points from eight games. Clones won the league game between the teams by three points.
Seán and Shane O’Brien, Gary McBride Francis Dolan and Dermot Smyth will need to play big parts for Aghabog, while Clones will be looking for big performances from Adrian Alford, Danny Rooney, Colin McCaughey and David Freeman, with Darren Freeman also in contention to start after he made a big impact off the bench against Killeevan.
Universal Graphics Junior Football Championship
Killanny v Killeevan, Sunday, 7.00, Drumhowan
Killanny and Killeevan put their championship hopes on the line on Sunday in the ‘back door’.
Killeevan lost by a point to Clones in the first round in a game that they could easily have won, while Killanny lost by three against Toome. The sides clashed in the first round last year, when Killanny had a three-point win, but Killeevan went on to reach the semi-finals through the back door, where they lost to eventual champions Corduff. Killeevan ran out easy winners when the sides met in the JFL back in March in round one, but Killanny are now just two points behind them with two games in hand.
Killeevan will need Noel Smith, Kevin McGinn, Darren Quigley and Gerard Hughes on form. Killanny will be looking for more from Peter Dooley, with Cian Wakely, Daryl Traynor and Eddie Markey also crucial to their chances.
The Silver Hill Foods Reserve Hurling League semi-finals take place on Thursday evening, with defending champions Inniskeen travelling to the team they beat in last year’s final, Truagh, and Monaghan Harps hosting Castleblayney.
The Silver Hill Foods Senior Hurling League hots up on Sunday with the last round before the start of the championship. Leaders Castleblayney are away to Carrickmacross, while Clontibret and Inniskeen have home advantage against Monaghan Harps and Truagh respectively.
The Gerry’s Takeaway, Ballybay Under-16 Football Leagues resume after the exam break on Thursday, while the GRM Minor Football Leagues also get back underway next Tuesday. Monday evening sees the start of the Under-16 and Under-12 Hurling Leagues.
Inniskeen take on Castleblayney in a rescheduled Drumlin Group of Credit Unions Senior Football League match on Wednesday, while there are also games in Divisions One and Two of the Platinum Tanks Reserve Football League.