McKenna Cup, Group B
Monaghan v Fermanagh
Sun Jan 8th @ Clones @ 2pm
Referee – Noel Mooney (Cavan)
It might be 140 days when Fermanagh travel to Clones to face Monaghan in the Preliminary round of the Ulster Championship but tomorrows game will be a huge chance for both Pete McGrath and Malachy O’Rourke to lay down a marker for the season and to get off to a winning start in the 2017 McKenna Cup.
Fermanagh’s season finished abruptly in 2016 when an Aidan O’Shea inspired dive knocked McGrath’s side from the All Ireland title race but sometimes maybe a rest away from the County scene will be a huge help as Fermanagh start the 2017 season tomorrow with a raft of new faces being handed a chance to impress the Down native.
The Fermanagh side will start with established goalkeeper Christopher Snow in nets, the Ederney man impressed last season and will know once again that Devenish man Thomas Treacy will be breathing down his neck for the number 1 jersey.
The full back line is made up of a Derrygonnelly double with Michael Jones once again slotting in at his usual corner back position and over from him will be Lee Cullen and Tiarnan Daly, both players missing the entire 2016 season due to University and injury respectively.
Declan McCusker (pictured) and Aidan Breen take up the wing half back positions with both bringing a wealth of experience and both having fine seasons in the Erne colours last season. In the middle will be the returning Ryan McCluskey who will play his first Fermanagh game since the drawn game with Galway back on Easter Sunday in Tuam in the NFL Division 2 campaign before injury forced him out for the season.
Ryan Hyde and Kane Connor make up an unknown pairing at midfield with Hyde back into the Erne squad while Connors has impressed a number of times in 2016 and will be eager to impress McGrath with space opening around the middle of the field since Conall Jones and Richard O’Callaghan headed to Australia.
At half forward Eoin McManus and Paul McCusker take up the win half forward positions while it’s a chance for Lisnaskea attacker Tomas Clarke to make an impression with the number 11 jersey on his back.
The full forward line bristles with talent with top scorer from 2016, Tomas Corrigan taking up one corner and Eddie Courtney making a first return since he last played in 2014 for Fermanagh. At full forward Coa midfielder Eoin Donnelly comes in on the edge of the square and it should be interesting to see how the big Fermanagh captain gets on with number 14 on his back.
Monaghan have named a rather unknown squad with a vast amount of Farney players operating with University sides in McKenna Cup and O’Byrne Cup action.
Malachy O’Rourke has named 10 newcomers in his McKenna Cup squad and two of those players will start tomorrow. James Mealiff of Clones starts at centre half forward, while the 2016 Monaghan Minor captain, Michael Brannigan of Aughnamullen starts at left corner forward in a Monaghan side who will be looking for a first victory in the McKenna Cup since 2015 after losing all three games last year to Cavan, UUJ and Armagh.
Rory Beggan takes up the number one position for the home side and in front of him will be experienced defenders such as Fintan Kelly, Ryan Wylie, Kieran Duffy and Colin Walshe.
At midfield Scotstown brothers Darren and Kieran Hughes will look to pull the strings in the middle of the field, while at half forward Karl O’Connell and Gavin Doogan come in at wing half forward with Clones’ Mealiff in between them.
The full forward line for Monaghan sees former Under-21 ace Ferghal McGeough of Rockcorry comes into the corner forward position and Ballybay’s Thomas Kerr at full forward, Kerr made his Monaghan debut a number of years ago but has failed to nail down a starting position. Brannigan will take up the other corner forward position.
It should be a good lively game tomorrow with both sides eager to start the season off with a win.