The men and women of Monaghan get their Ulster Senior Football Championship campaigns underway in Omagh on Sunday. Both games are repeats of last year’s provincial finals.
Ulster Senior Football Championship First Round
Monaghan v Tyrone, Sunday, 3.30, Omagh
Monaghan travel to Omagh this Sunday to take on Tyrone in the first round of the Ulster SFC. The sides clashed in last year’s Ulster final, when Tyrone cruised to victory, crushing the hopes of a Monaghan team that had looked impressive up to then. Monaghan have of undergone a transition period since that game, with Eamon McEneaney returning for a second spell as manager.
Monaghan were relegated from Division One of the National Football League this year, despite having an identical record to last year when they stayed up. The Farney men’s campaign was book-ended by wins over Galway and Mayo, with five defeats in between. Tyrone finished fourth in Division Two after a late charge fell just short of gaining promotion. The Red Hand county started off with defeats against Donegal and Derry, before finishing with four straight wins against Sligo, Antrim, Laois and Kildare and a draw with Meath.
Monaghan’s team features just seven of the team that started last year’s Ulster final, with Mark Keogh, Kieran Duffy, Conor Galligan and Daniel McKenna set to make SFC debuts, while Neil McAdam gets his first championship start. Monaghan have a very inexperienced bench, with nine of the 13 subs having little or no experience of championship football.
In contrast, Mickey Harte has named an experienced Tyrone team, with Brian Dooher returning to make his first start of the inter-county campaign. Owen Mulligan, Kevin Hughes, Colm Cavanagh and Joe and Justin McMahon are absent, but Philip Jordan starts, as does debutant Mark Donnelly.
Monaghan will be looking for big performances from battle-hardened players like Dick Clerkin, Dessie Mone, Owen Lennon and Paul Finlay, as well as Conor McManus and Darren Hughes. Finlay and McManus will shoulder most of the scoring burden
Tyrone have a strong line-up, with Seán Cavanagh partnering Aidan Cassidy at midfield, in front of a vastly experienced half-back line, while Brian McGuigan is in form at centre-forward and Martin Penrose and Stephen O’Neill are the danger-men inside. Tyrone are chasing a history-making third Ulster title in a row, although they will also be targeting a first All-Ireland since 2008.
Monaghan go to Healy Park as clear underdogs (odds as high as 3/1), but they will be out to prove a lot of people wrong and end a long wait for a championship win against Tyrone.
Monaghan: M Keogh; K Duffy, Darren Hughes, C Walshe; C Galligan, D Mone, O Duffy; O Lennon, D Clerkin (Capt.); S Gollogly, M Downey, N McAdam; D McKenna, P Finlay, C McManus.
Tyrone: P McConnell; M Swift, C McCarron, R McMenamin; D Harte, C Gormley, P Jordan; A Cassidy, S Cavanagh; B Dooher (Capt.), B McGuigan, P Harte; M Penrose, Stephen O’Neill, Mark Donnelly.
TG4 Ulster Ladies Senior Football Championship
Monaghan v Armagh, Sunday, 1.45, Omagh
Monaghan start their defence of the Ulster Ladies SFC on Sunday when they play Armagh at Healy Park as the curtain-raiser to the men’s game against Tyrone.
Monaghan beat Armagh in the Ulster final last year and they will be aiming to at least retain the provincial title this year after an impressive start to the season. Monaghan won the pre-season O’Dowd Cup and they went on to win seven games in a row in the league, although they were brought back down to earth when they lost the Division One semi-final against Laois.
Cathriona McConnell, Ciara and Aoife McAnespie, Therese McNally, Amanda Casey, Sharon Courtney and Caoimhe Mohan have been among the main players for Monaghan this year, while Armagh will need big performances from Caroline O’Hanlon, Mags McAlinden and Shauna O’Hagan should play key roles for Armagh, who had a disappointing league campaign, which saw them finish second-from-bottom in Division Two.
The Ulster ladies championship has been played using around-robin format in recent years but it is returning to a knock-out competition this year, with Down awaiting the winners of this game in the semi-finals.
Sunday’s double-header is not all-ticket. Tickets are needed for the covered stand, but supporters can pay at the gate for entry to the turnstiles.