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Match officals will be kept on their toes for key replay clashes

By John Campbell

Vigilance will be the watchword for Ulster Council officials as they prepare to host the two senior provincial football championship replays this weekend.

And they will most certainly be on their toes tonight when Donegal and Monaghan set the ball rolling at Kingspan Breffni Park, Cavan (7pm) in advance of tomorrow's renewal of rivalry between Tyrone and Cavan at St Tiernach's Park, Clones (5pm).

In last weekend's drawn game, match officials failed to spot that while Christy Toye came on as a substitute for Donegal, Rory Kavanagh did not leave the field of play immediately to make way for him. And Monaghan have since expressed consternation at what they believe to have been too many incursions onto the pitch by Donegal team runner Maxie Curran.

Referee Maurice Deegan's powers of observance are likely to be tested to the full just as is Monaghan's ability to execute more scores from play.

Last Saturday skipper Conor McManus pocketed eight points with seven coming from frees but now manager Malachy O'Rourke wants his attack as a whole to step up to the mark when it comes to converting chances.

"We maybe did not make enough of the opportunities we got in the drawn game and we hope to put more scores on the board this time from play," says O'Rourke. It's a sentiment that Donegal boss Rory Gallagher shares as each side scored just six points from play.

While McManus will again be the talisman in the Farney county attack, Donegal will look to their twin strike force of Patrick McBrearty and Michael Murphy to display much more accuracy than they did a week ago.

Both were uncharacteristically off-key with their shooting in the second-half with Monaghan benefitting from their profligacy as they snatched a draw via McManus' eighth point in added time.

Dynamic duo Karl O'Connell and Kieran Hughes can provide the momentum for Monaghan's attacking play while Drew Wylie and Vinny Corey will seek to impose themselves in a defence which was considerably boosted when Fintan Kelly arrived as a substitute in the drawn game.

Monaghan's ability to raid down their flanks, their penchant for tackling strongly and their clever movement off the ball might reap more rewards providing their finishing is better this time out.

On the other hand, McBrearty and Murphy are extremely unlikely to have another bad day at the office. In essence, it's all down to the toss of a coin.

Belfast Telegraph

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