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New dawn set to begin for Ulster trio

By John Campbell

For two of Ulster's new breed of county team bosses, tomorrow marks a significant milestone.

Down manager Jim McCorry will make his touchline debut against Cavan at Pairc Esler, Newry while Antrim's Frank Fitzsimmons takes his competitive baptism against St Mary's at Creggan.

It may be 'only' the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup but for two men charged with resurrecting the fortunes of teams which have been under-performing in recent years, any crumb of comfort garnered in January will be welcomed.

McCorry will parade a new-look side against a Cavan team that is cushioned by a raft of Under-21 talent while Fitzsimmons opts for an amalgam of youth and experience against a St Mary's outfit that includes two Antrim panellists in Paddy McBride and Matt Fitzpatrick.

One of McCorry's prime tasks will be to find a replacement for veteran goalkeeper Brendan McVeigh, who retired following last year's championship.

It had been expected that Michael Cunningham would automatically step into the role but with Stephen Kane and Kieran Gordon having impressed in the recent Down Select v Down All Stars charity game, McCorry could find himself with rather more options at his disposal.

All three will, if and when selected, be required to play behind what is likely to be a restructured defence given that Daniel McCartan is not included in the McKenna Cup squad while Ryan Boyle and Ryan Mallon are involved in Warrenpoint's preparations for the forthcoming All-Ireland Intermediate club football semi-final against Kerry and Munster champions Ardfert.

Antrim boss Fitzsimmons, meanwhile, will be missing the services of players like Ronan McGrady, Ryan Murray and Niall Delargy, all of whom will be playing for their respective universities in the McKenna Cup.

Rory Gallagher is another new manager who will be taking a bow tomorrow and his Donegal side will certainly face a stiff test against Derry at Owenbeg.

Fermanagh manager Peter McGrath, meanwhile, believes his side is in good heart for the visit of Queen's University to Brewster Park, Enniskillen.

"Training has been going well and the boys are very keen to get going," says McGrath.

"Our preparations have been better than they were at this stage last year and we are hopeful of making a good start to the year."

Belfast Telegraph

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