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Previews (February 4-5)

February 4th, 2012

Allianz National Football League Division Two

Meath v Monaghan, Saturday, 7.00, Navan


Monaghan begin their Allianz National Football League campaign on Saturday evening with a highly-anticipated game away to Meath. In a very competitive division, every point will be crucial, so both teams will be determined to get an early win in the bag.

Monaghan go into the league somewhat under the radar despite being unfortunate to be relegated from Division One last year and that may be no harm to Eamon McEneaney’s side. A mixed Dr. McKenna Cup brought a win over St. Mary’s and defeats against Down and Armagh, but Monaghan have a number of panellists to come back into contention, including seven college players and last year’s captain Dick Clerkin, who has returned from honeymoon. Meath barely clung on to Division Two status in 2011 by virtue of their superior head-to-head record versus Sligo, but they will be expected to fare much better this year, with the management team more established. Former Monaghan manager Séamus McEnaney is now with Meath and he knows all about his native county, but on the other hand, Eamonn O’Brien is now involved with Monaghan and the ex-Meath boss is equally familiar with the Royal County’s players. Meath enjoyed wins over Wexford and Louth in the O’Byrne Cup, but their run came to an abrupt halt with an eight-point defeat against DCU at the semi-final stage. Neither county made much impact in the championship last year, as Monaghan lost to Tyrone and Offaly, while Meath were beaten twice by Kildare.

Paul Finlay has started 2012 in fine scoring form and Monaghan will need another big performance from him, as well as the likes of Dick Clerkin, Darren and Kieran Hughes, Owen Duffy and Vincent Corey. Graham Reilly, Stephen Bray, Cian Ward, Kevin Reilly and Shane O’Rourke are among the main men for a physically imposing Meath side.

An intriguing game is in prospect and Monaghan have the ability and motivation to upset the bookies odds and take the points, although a repeat of their last trip to Navan in 2009 which finished in a draw cannot be ruled out.

The game throws in at 7pm on Saturday at Páirc Tailteann and following on from the successful tweeting of updates from Monaghan’s Dr. McKenna Cup games last month; the Official Monaghan GAA twitter page will carry updates from a league match for the first time. Players from both teams will wear blue or pink gloves in the match in support of cancer awareness.

The Monaghan team named by Eamon McEneaney shows seven changes from the last Dr. McKenna Cup game against Armagh and six changes from last June’s championship defeat to Offaly. Colin Walshe, Dessie Mone, Neil McAdam and Kieran Hughes return from college commitments, while Owen Lennon, Mark Downey and Christopher McGuinness appear to have recovered from injuries. The bench includes experience in Dick Clerkin, who is still returning to full fitness, Stephen Gollogly and Ciarán Hanratty, as well as the in-form Dermot Malone and ‘uncapped’ NFL trio Rory Beggan, Ronan McNally and Karl O’Connell, although there is no place for the injured Kieran Duffy.


Monaghan (v Meath): Mark Keogh; Donal Morgan, Darren Hughes (Capt.), Colin Walshe; Dessie Mone, Vincent Corey, David Hughes; Owen Lennon, James Turley; Neil McAdam, Owen Duffy, Mark Downey; Paul Finlay, Kieran Hughes, Christopher McGuinness.

Subs: Rory Beggan, Ronan McNally, Dermot Malone, Karl O’Connell, Matthew McKenna, Dick Clerkin, Ciarán Hanratty, Stephen Gollogly, Bernard O’Brien, Shane Smyth, Drew Wylie.

Ladies National Football League Division One

Monaghan v Laois, Sunday, 2.00, Tyholland


Monaghan’s ladies footballers start their NFL campaign on Sunday with a home game against ‘bogey team’ Laois. Monaghan’s struggles against Laois continued last year when they lost to them in a league semi-final, surprisingly ending a seven-match winning streak, but with the Dowd Cup already in the bag this year, Gregory McGonigle’s side will be confident of reversing that result.

A number of fringe players featured in the pre-season competition, but it is the established players like Sharon Courtney, Cathriona McConnell, Therese and Gráinne McNally and Ciara and Aoife McAnespie who Monaghan will look to for leadership as they seek to get their season proper off to a flying start, similar to last year.

Shamrock Cup

Meath v Monaghan, Sunday, 11.00, Navan


Monaghan are back in Páirc Tailteann for an early throw-in in the Shamrock Cup. Monaghan started off with a win over Antrim and Meath lost out to Tyrone, but Monaghan could be up against it here, with Kieran Duffy remaining on the sidelines, Daniel McKenna still doubtful and the Scotstown contingent of Rory Beggan, Damien McArdle, Shane Carey and Stephen Sherry on club duty in Creggan.

Ulster Club Under-21 Football Championship First Round

Scotstown v Omagh, Sunday, 12.45, Creggan

The Ulster Club Under-21 Football Championship is in full swing at Creggan in Co Antrim, with Scotstown flying the Monaghan flag in the competition this Sunday. Scotstown, who lost to Monaghan Harps in the 2010 final, were back in the Monaghan Under-21 decider this year, where they beat Aughnamullen by 4-11 to 1-11, inspired by a virtuoso substitute performance by Kieran Hughes. Scotstown can call on other players who featured in their seniors’ run to the county final, such as Rory Beggan, Damien McArdle, Shane Carey, Orin Heaphey, Stephen Sherry and Conor Caulfield, will be looking to improve Monaghan clubs’ underwhelming record in recent years. The north-Monaghan side reached the 2008 Ulster MFC Club Final, only to suffer a one-point defeat against Ballinderry. 

Omagh, who defeated Donaghmore by 0-15 to 1-5 in the Tyrone final, have experience of this tournament, as only Burren stood in their way two years ago. Both teams will be hoping their star men come through Saturday’s National Football League games unscathed, as Scotstown’s Kieran Hughes can expect to be involved with Monaghan in Navan and Omagh forward Ronan O’Neill is pushing for a place in the Tyrone team for their game against Kildare.

Already through to the semi-finals are Mayobridge of Down and Armagh champions St. Patrick’s, Cullyhanna. Conleth O’Hare’s accuracy had Mayobridge up by 0-6 to 0-4 against Assan Gaels and although Oliver Smith’s goal briefly edged the Cavan amalgamation ahead, a brace by Ryan Brady saw the ‘Bridge comfortably through by 2-11 to 1-7. Cullyhanna battled past host club Creggan by the narrowest of margins, with Kyle McEvoy’s early goal proving decisive in a low-scoring 1-4 to 0-6 win.

The Scotstown game is part of a double-header this Sunday in Creggan. Scotstown v Omagh throws in at 12.45, followed by the game between Donegal champions Kilcar and Dungiven from Derry at 2.30.

Monaghan clubs are also in action in the Ulster Club Senior Football League on Sunday, when Castleblayney take on Tyrone champions Dromore in Oram and Truagh travel to Trillick, while Castleblayney, Carrickmacross and Truagh get their Táin League campaigns underway on Saturday.

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