GAA stars to turn out for Michaela
Ulster boss Joe Kernan has signalled his intentions to make the forthcoming 'Match for Michaela' as competitive as possible, by naming a seriously impressive team for the extravaganza on November 3.
The match, which will be a fundraiser for the Michaela Foundation charity, pits the current All-Ireland champions Donegal against the cream of the rest of province in what could be the last big event hosted at Casement Park before the redevelopment of the ground.
It also allows Kernan a chance to run the rule over his Ulster players before they bid to retain the Inter-Provincial Cup next spring.
As a player, it was a competition that the All-Ireland winning manager was synonymous with.
“Playing for Ulster during my playing career were some of the most enjoyable days of my life,” he reflected yesterday.
“It is great to have it back next year. It is a chance for the players to meet and play alongside the best players from other counties, and for the supporters to come along and see quality and competitive football played at the highest level.”
After landing eight GAA/GPA All-Stars earlier in the week, Donegal will be bringing as strong a squad as possible for the match, to be played under floodlights.
However, two of those All-Star recipients — Mark McHugh and Neil McGee — are believed to be injury doubts, while Karl Lacey might not play as he sustained a hamstring in club action for Four Masters last Sunday.
Speaking at the announcement of the teams yesterday, Donegal manager Jim McGuinness said: “This is the first time that this group of players will take the field as All Ireland champions and we are delighted to be in this position. We have a number of injury concerns but we will be fielding the strongest team possible.
“I anticipate that this will be a tremendous occasion and gauging from the interest within our county, our supporters will be there in force too”.
The Ulster team to start the match contains at least one player from each Ulster county — excluding Donegal of course — with Tyrone leading the way in representation with four, Red Hands supremo Mickey Harte releasing Sean and Colm Cavanagh, Joe McMahon and Martin Penrose.
The Donegal final, between St Eunan's and Naomh Conaill, takes place the day after the ‘Match for Michaela' weakening the hand of Jim McGuinness as St Eunan's players Kevin Rafferty and Rory Kavanagh will be absent, along with his own Naomh Conaill clubmates Anthony Thompson, Dermot Molloy, Leo McLoone and Marty Boyle.
However, their absence will grant players on the fringes of the Donegal panel a chance to impress, should they be called off the bench, such as Gary McFadden and Peter Withrow, Colm McFadden's younger brother Antoin, and the third McGee brother from Gweedore, Peter.
The first round proper of the Ulster club campaign is also played on November 4, denying Joe Kernan the opportunity of inviting Peter and Davy Harte, along with John Devine of Errigal Ciaran.
They face Ballinderry, whom Conleith Gilligan would have come into contention for an Ulster place, after winning the interprovincial series as a player for Kernan in 2012.
Other players to be ruled out because of club commitments include St Gall's Aodhan Gallagher and Sean Burke, All-Star nominee Conor Laverty of Kilcoo, and Ballybay captain Paul Finlay.
Monaghan's Darren Hughes has been named captain — just as he was in this year's, when Ulster beat Munster 3-11 to 1-15, with Hughes helping himself to three points in that contest.
Other entertainment has been lined up on the night and that will be provided by Master of Ceremonies Hector ÓhEochagáin, with music by Janet Devlin and 'More Power to your Elbow'.
Tickets for the game are available through the usual sources, including www.tickets.gaa.ie, county offices and participating Supervalu and Centra stores nationwide, at £10/€10 per adult and £5/€5 per child. Those arriving to the ground on the night will be able to pay at the gate.
Ulster team: Brendan McVeigh [Down], Ryan McCluskey [Fermanagh], Dan Gordon [Down], Chrissy McKaigue [Derry], Ciaran McKeever [Armagh], Darren Hughes [Monaghan], James Loughrey [Antrim], Sean Cavanagh [Tyrone], David Givney [Cavan], Colm Cavanagh [Tyrone], Mark Poland [Down], Joe McMahon [Tyrone], Martin Penrose [Tyrone], Michael McCann [Antrim], Conor McManus [Monaghan]
Subs: Niall Morgan [Tyrone], Conor Gormley [Tyrone], Vinnie Corey [Monaghan], Brendan Donaghy [Armagh], Ambrose Rogers [Down], Gearoid McKiernan [Cavan], Benny Coulter [Down]
Donegal team: Paul Durcan, Paddy McGrath, Eamonn McGee, Thomas McKinley, Frank McGlynn, Karl Lacey, Declan Walsh, Christy Toye, Neil Gallagher, Daniel McLaughlin, Adrian Hanlon, Ryan Bradley, Patrick McBrearty, Michael Murphy, David Walsh
Subs: Michael Boyle, Antoin McFadden, Mark McHugh, Peter Withrow, Martin McElhinney, Stephen Griffin, Barry Dunnion, Martin O'Reilly, Gary McFadden, Peter McGee