There is no Allianz National Football League action this weekend, but that does not mean that it’s a quiet weekend, with a number of fixtures taking place in different competitions.
Shamrock Cup Under-21 Football
Monaghan v Down, Saturday, 2.00, Cloghan
Monaghan are all but assured of a place in the Shamrock Cup Final ahead of Saturday’s game against Down, but they will be keen to make it three wins from three and keep their current momentum going.
Monaghan have had wins over Tyrone and Antrim so far, while Down drew with Antrim and lost to Tyrone. Both sides are set to be without players involved in Sunday’s Ulster Under-21 Club semi-final in Creggan, but the absence of NFL fixtures this weekend should mean that senior panelists are available, which would give Monaghan the services of Jack McCarron, Pete Dooney, Peter O’Hanlon and Rory Beggan, who would join Pádraig and Daniel McKenna, Thomas Kerr, Keith McEnaney and Ryan Wylie in playing central roles.
Ladies National Football League Division One
Meath v Monaghan, Sunday, 2.00, Dunganny
Monaghan will bid for a second win in the Ladies NFL when they take on Meath in Dunganny (just outside Trim) on Sunday.
Monaghan started their defence of the league title with a good win over All-Ireland champions Cork, although their game against Mayo last Sunday was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. Meath have suffered narrow defeats against Dublin and Cork in their two games so far.
Cathriona McConnell looks to have brought her prolific 2012 form into the new year, as she hit 1-3 against Cork, while Sharon Courtney, Ciara and Aoife McAnespie, Christina Reilly and new captain Ellen McCarron also remain important players for Monaghan. Jenny Rispin, Katie O’Brien, Geraldine Doherty and Bridgetta Lynch will be expected to lead the way for Meath.
Thomas Devlin Motors Ulster Club Under-21 Football Championship First Round
Emerald Sarsfields v Bryansford, Sunday, 12.30, Creggan
Emerald Sarsfields will bid to become the first Monaghan team to qualify for the Ulster Club Under-21 FC finals when they take on Down champions Bryansford at Creggan on Sunday. The Blackhill/Oram amalgamation, who won the Monaghan Under-21 Division One title in style last July (beating the likes of Monaghan Harps, Scotstown and Truagh along the way), have already ended the county’s losing run in the competition by easing past Antrim champions St. John’s last Sunday. Bryansford, who crushed last year’s Ulster runners-up Mayobridge in the Down decider, proved too strong for Cavan Gaels in the quarter-finals
Emeral Sarsfields will need big performances from forwards Pauric Graham (if he is fit to play), Ryan McGuinness, Philip Donnelly and Michael Geehan, midfielder Ciarán Courtney and defenders Cathal Crowe and Donal and Anthony Courtney. Bryansford have an ace in the pack in Down senior panellist Danny Savage, as well as the likes of David McKibbin, Adam Magorrian and Neil Murray.
Emerald Sarsfields will go into Sunday as underdogs, but last Sunday proved that they are a force to be reckoned with at this level. The game will be followed by the other semi-final between Armagh Harps and Ballinderry (Derry).
Danske Bank MacRory Cup Quarter-Final
St. Macartan’s College v St. Patrick’s, Dungannon, Saturday 12.00, Emyvale
St. Macartan’s College put their MacRory Cup hopes on the line on Saturday when they take on St. Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon in the quarter-finals in Emyvale. Please note change of venue back to Emyvale from Dunmoyle.
The Sem needed a remarkable second-half comeback to edge out St. Pat’s, Armagh in a play-off and qualify for the last eight, in contrast to Dungannon, who secured their place with two group games to spare thanks to comfortable wins against Armagh and St. Mary’s, Magherafelt. The Monaghan lads will go in as underdogs, although the spirit shown last time out means that they can’t be written off, especially with players of the quality of Ulster Colleges All-Star Fearghal McMahon, Conor McCarthy, Micheál McCarville, Kevin Loughran and Lorcan Smyth. The Academy have their own All-Star in Ruairí McGlone, along with the likes of Deasún Quinn, Philip Donnelly and Stephen McGrath.
It’s a busy day for the Sem, whose centenary gala ball takes place that evening, celebrating 100 years of Gaelic games at the north-Monaghan school.
It’s a busy few days for Truagh in the pre-season club leagues. They have two games in the Ulster Club IFL – at home to Edendork (Tyrone) on Sunday and against Ballerin (Derry) in Cookstown on Wednesday – while before that, their hurlers host Seán Treacys from Lurgan in the Táin Club Hurling League on Saturday. Aughnamullen also have a home game in the Ulster IFL on Sunday, against Claudy from Derry.
Also on Sunday, Ulster take on Munster in a football and hurlinginter-provincial semi-finals double-header at the Armagh Athletic Grounds. Monaghan have three players on the football panel – team captain Darren Hughes from Scotstown, his brother Kieran, and Clontibret’s Conor McManus. The hurling throws in at 12.30pm, followed by the football at 2.15.
Ulster football panel: Pascal McConnell, Joe McMahon, Seán Cavanagh, Martin Penrose, Peter Harte, Cathal McCarron, Justin McMahon, Conor McAliskey (all Tyrone); Michael Murphy, Neil McGee, Eamon McGee, Mark McHugh (all Donegal); Brendan McVeigh, Paul McComiskey, Mark Poland, Benny Coulter (all Down); Darren Hughes (Capt.), Kieran Hughes, Conor McManus (all Monaghan); David Givney, Gearóid McKiernan (both Cavan); Chrissy McKaigue, Dermot McBride (both Antrim); Tommy McElroy (Fermanagh); Ciarán McKeever (Armagh); Kevin Niblock (Antrim)