Previews (March 15-16)
Allianz National Football League Division Two
Armagh v Monaghan, Saturday, 7.00, Athletic Grounds
Monaghan will attempt to keep their NFL promotion bid on course when they make the short trip to Armagh on Saturday evening.
Monaghan bounced back last Sunday with a comfortable win over Louth, a week after losing to Donegal, having picked up three points from their opening two games via a draw with Down and a convincing victory against Meath. Armagh had to come from nine points down to salvage a draw from their opener against Louth, but they were unfortunate to lose to a late goal against Down and they have gone on to pick up back-to-back wins at the expense of Meath and Laois.
Malachy O’Rourke has made two changes to the Monaghan team for this game, with Under-21s Ryan Wylie and Pádraic Keenan dropping out in preparation for their Ulster championship game against Down on Wednesday, which allows Kieran Duffy and Paul Finlay to return. Wylie, Keenan, Conor Boyle and Thomas Kerr are also left off the bench, making room for long-term injury absentees Peter O’Hanlon and Owen Duffy. Conor McManus, Kieran Hughes, Jack McCarron, Gavin Doogan and Fintan Kelly have shown well in recent weeks and will be expected to continue that form.
Former Monaghan selector Paul Grimley has named an Armagh team with one personnel change from last weekend, with Rory Grugan replacing the injured Kevin Dyas. Jamie Clarke is the obvious danger-man in the Armagh attack, but he will have support from the likes of Stefan Campbell, Stefan Forker, Tony Kernan and midfielder Ethan Rafferty, while Andy Mallon and Paul Hughes are the form players in defence.
A typically close Ulster derby can be expected on Saturday night, where Monaghan will be targeting another step towards a second consecutive promotion.
Monaghan: Rory Beggan; Kieran Duffy, Drew Wylie, Fintan Kelly; Colin Walshe, Vincent Corey, Dessie Mone; Gavin Doogan, Owen Lennon; Paul Finlay, Kieran Hughes, Pádraig Donaghy; Dermot Malone, Jack McCarron, Conor McManus (Capt.).
Subs: Gerard McCaffrey, Conor Galligan, Karl O’Connell, Martin McElroy, Dick Clerkin, Peter O’Hanlon, Owen Duffy, Shane Carey, Stephen Gollogly, Christopher McGuinness.
Armagh: Philip McEvoy; Paul Hughes, Aaron Findon, Michael Murray; Mark Shields, Andy Mallon, Feidhlim O’Neill; Stephen Harold, Ethan Rafferty; Rory Grugan, Tony Kernan, Caolán Rafferty; Jamie Clarke, Stefan Campbell, Stefan Forker.
Allianz National Hurling League Division 3A
Donegal v Monaghan, Sunday, 2.00, Letterkenny
Monaghan’s hurlers will be bidding for a third straight NHL win when they take on Donegal at O’Donnell Park on Sunday.
After losing to Longford first time out, Monaghan have bounced back into the promotion hunt with back-to-back wins against Roscommon and Louth. Donegal, who beat Monaghan twice last year, were always fancied in this division and they started by beating Fermanagh and Longford, but they fell to a surprise defeat at the hands of Roscommon last Sunday. Donegal are still top of the table on score difference, but Monaghan are one of three teams level on points with the Nicky Rackard Cup champions.
Hugh Byrne has been in accurate form from frees for Monaghan, who will be looking for players like Seán Leonard and Brian McGuigan to also contribute on the scoreboard, while Peter and Mark Treanor, Trevor Hilliard and Éanna Mac Suibhne give the team a strong spine from full-back to midfield. Donegal have plenty of scoring threats in Lee Henderson, Ciarán Matthewson and Kevin Campbell, while Danny Cullen is a star at midfield and Joe Boyle and Jamesie Donnelly anchor the back-line.
Monaghan can take heart from the counties’ respective results against Roscommon, but the chances are Joe Morris’s side will need to up their game again to take a result from Donegal.
Ulster Minor Hurling League Division Two
Monaghan v Tyrone, Saturday, 12.00, Clones
After putting Louth to the sword last Saturday, Monaghan’s minor hurlers will look to continue their impressive start against Tyrone in Clones.
Monaghan racked up a huge score in their opening game and they have an advantage of having a match under their belts, unlike Tyrone, who didn’t play last week. Ronan Curran, Ciarán McQuaid, Jamie Dooley, Micheál and Neasán Mac Suibhne, Ryan O’Neill, Noel Flood and Tiarnán Bramley give Monaghan an experienced backbone of players who have featured in the last couple of years, helping Monaghan to league and championship success at this grade. The hosts will be confident of picking up another two points.
All-Ireland Colleges Football ‘C’ Semi-Final
Our Lady’s, Castleblayney v Ardee CS, Saturday, 2.00, Inniskeen
Our Lady’s, Castleblayney contest an All-Ireland semi-final against Ardee Community School at Páirc Grattan on Saturday.
Our Lady’s were knocked out of the ‘B’ MacLarnon Cup before Christmas, but wins over St. Louis, Ballymena, St. Patrick’s, Keady and Holy Cross, Strabane saw them through to the O’Doherty Cup Final, where they ground out a narrow win against St. Louis, Kilkeel. The Castleblayney school have an Ulster Colleges All-Star defender in Barry Kerr, who will be expected to spearhead their challenge along with Conor Marray, Jamie Walshe, Michael Bannigan and Damien Ward. County minor star Barry McGinn is set to miss out, however, due to suspension.
Ardee CS retained their Leinster title with a convincing win over Dublin school St. Colmcille’s and they will be looking for big performances from the likes of Ryan Burns, Martin Duffy, Ryan Rooney, Brendan Matthews and Conor Clarke
There is action in all divisions of the Platinum Tanks Reserve Football Leagues over the weekend. Division 1A defending champions Scotstown are away to Latton on Sunday, while the two Division 1B fixtures are between Tyholland and Castleblayney (Saturday) and Cremartin and Ballybay (Sunday). Seán McDermotts, Aughnamullen, Carrickmacross, Donaghmoyne and Rockcorry have home advantage against Oram, Inniskeen, Éire Óg, Doohamlet and Corduff respectively in Division Two on Sunday. In Division Three, Monaghan Harps and Blackhill contest a repeat of last year’s championship final, while Emyvale, Truagh, Clones and Clontibret host Currin, Killanny, Toome and Aghabog.
The Silver Hill Foods Development Hurling League begins on Saturday with games between Clontibret and Monaghan Harps and Inniskeen and Castleblayney.
The Gerry’s Prepared Veg. Under-12 Football Spring Leagues also get underway on Saturday.