DOUBLE-HEADER FITS THE BILL FOR FANS

24 June 2016 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Monaghan renew rivalries with Donegal in Kingspan Breffni Park, Cavan, this Saturday evening with a place in a fourth consecutive Ulster Senior Football Championship Final in their sights. by COLM SHALVEY

These teams have contested each of the last three Ulster finals, but the draw has pitted them against each other at the semi-final stage this time around. Monaghan are attempting to make it four straight provincial final appearances for the first time since 1921-1924, while Donegal are bidding to reach a sixth consecutive decider; an unprecedented feat for their county.

Donegal had gone 19 years without winning the Anglo-Celt Cup when Jim McGuinness ushered in a new era in 2011, but by 2014 they had increased their total haul from five to eight, as well as lifting a second All-Ireland title in 2012.

Monaghan have been more than a match for the Tír Chónaill men, however, and although they lost two years ago in Donegal’s last Ulster championship game under McGuinness (for now), that result was sandwiched by provincial final victories in 2013 and last year. Monaghan also edged out their rivals in Castleblayney in April to secure their Allianz National Football League Division One status, with a late Colin Walshe point completing a famous comeback from seven points down.

Monaghan started their defence of the Ulster title with a comprehensive win over Down in Clones three weeks ago. Malachy O’Rourke wouldn’t have been happy with his team’s first-half performance on that occasion, but the holders turned on the style after the restart to run up the county’s second-highest ever championship score.

Donegal, meanwhile, had seven points to spare over Fermanagh in Ballybofey, with a brace of goals from Odhrán Mac Niallais making the difference. The win came at a cost, however, as they had Neil McGee sent off and barring an unlikely successful appeal, the three-time All-Star full-back will be absent on Saturday.

Monaghan lined out with a healthy combination of youth and experience as they put Down to the sword. Much, as always, depends on the form of All-Star forward Conor McManus, who had one of his quieter days on that occasion, with other players stepping up. Darren and Kieran Hughes enjoyed …
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