Allianz National Football League Division Two
Derry v Monaghan, Saturday, 7.00, Celtic Park
Monaghan will seek to build on their impressive NFL Division Two win over Kildare last time out when they travel to Derry on Saturday evening.
Monaghan followed up their opening-round defeat away to Meath with a much more clinical display in Clones to see off the Lilywhites, so they will be determined to build on that performance when they face Derry, who have lost their two games to date against Galway and Tyrone.
The return to training of Tommy Freeman has added another option for McEneaney and his selectors, although there has been mixed news on the injury front with a number of players battling for fitness. It has been a tough few weeks for Paul Finlay since his star display against Kildare, with the sad death of his father, Monaghan legend Kieran, but he has also returned to training. Gary McQuaid took a knock against Down on his return from injury and while Conor McManus resumed light training on Tuesday, he is still thought to be a number of weeks away from being available for selection. Ronan McNally, Stephen Gollogly, McQuaid and Thomas O’Neill are set to miss out with short-term injuries and Bernard O’Brien is unavailable due to work commitments, but Colin Walshe, Kieran Duffy and Owen Lennon could come back into the starting team.
Derry forward Eoin Bradley is still on the sidelines as he recovers from the cruciate-ligament injury he suffered before last year’s Ulster final, while Gerard O’Kane is also out with a knee injury and Conleith Gilligan faces a race against time after a groin strain forced him off in the interprovincial final last Sunday, but on the positive side for John Brennan, Paddy Bradley is back in the side and returning to full fitness.
Fresh from captaining Ulster to interpro success last Sunday, Darren Hughes will also be expected to lead the way for Monaghan, along with Finlay, Dick Clerkin, Vincent Corey and his brother Kieran, who has been in fine form this year. Paddy Bradley, Cailean O’Boyle (whose performances have been one of the bright sparks for Derry to date), Mark Lynch, Charlie Kielt, Seán Leo McGoldrick, Joe Diver and Gilligan are the main men to watch out for on the Derry side.
These counties have built up a fierce rivalry in the last decade, although perhaps a bit cooler than when it reached its peak in the 2009 Ulster championship, so a very competitive game beckons. Monaghan have a decent record against Derry in those clashes and they won their last meeting in the 2010 NFL, but Celtic Park has always proved to be a tough place to get results and Eamon McEneaney’s side will know that only a performance of the same quality as the Kildare game will be enough to take home the spoils.
Bord Gáis Ladies National Football League Division One
Donegal v Monaghan, Sunday, 2.00, Convoy
Monaghan’s ladies are also on north-west-bound this weekend as they go to Convoy to play Donegal on Sunday.
Monaghan have already retained the Dowd Cup this year and they have started their NFL campaign with wins over Laois and Meath, either side of a defeat away to Cork, so they will be positive about their chances of taking full points from this one against a Donegal side who have sandwiched a win over Kildare with losses against Cork and Laois.
Sharon Courtney, Gráinne and Therese McNally, Aoife and Ciara McAnespie, Caoimhe Mohan and Cathriona McConnell should play key roles for Monaghan, who may be able to restore Amanda Casey and Ellen McCarron to the team after they missed the Meath game. With Donegal already without Yvonne McMonagle due to emigration, their chances will be hit further by the absence of fellow star attacker Geraldine McLaughlin, who suffered a pelvic injury against Laois. That will mean that Eilish Ward, Gráinne Houston, Ciara Hegarty and Kelly Wilson will have to step up to the mark on Sunday if they are to upset the odds.
Castleblayney have the chance to qualify for the play-offs in the Ulster Club Senior Football League when they defend their unbeaten record in Group C against Tyrone side Moortown at Oram on Saturday. In the Táin Club Hurling League, Carrickmacross face Ballinamore from Leitrim in Division 5A on the 3G pitch at Breffni Park on Friday night, while Castleblayney are away to Ballybofey side Seán Mac Cumhaills in Division 3B on Saturday and Truagh host Down outfit Carryduff in Division 5B.
Domestic club football returns in Monaghan this weekend, when there will be games in all four divisions of the Platinum Tanks Reserve Football League. Magheracloone and Latton clash in Division One on Saturday, while Scotstown and Tyholland host Monaghan Harps and Clontibret on Sunday. In Division Two, Ballybay, Cremartin, Doohamlet and Killeevan have home games against Corduff, Drumhowan, Donaghmoyne and Carrickmacross respectively. Rockcorry and Truagh have home advantage over Castleblayney and Oram in Division Three, while the Division Four games see Blackhill travel to Clones and Emyvale make the trip south to Toome.