Monaghan stars bidding for yet more glory
Two Monaghan players will come to Casement Park to face Antrim on Sunday armed with a double helping of honours already this season.
Skipper Darren Hughes led Ulster to the inter-provincial title in February and also shared in his county's Division Three final victory over Meath while defender Colin Walshe, who also played against the Royals, had earlier led DIT to their Sigerson Cup triumph.
Hughes has been an inspirational figure in the Monaghan side this year leading by fiery example and fulfilling a variety of roles in the charge into Division Two while Walshe has matured into one of the best corner backs in the province.
No wonder Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke can take comfort from the achievements of this duo but Hughes, who has also played for UUJ, believes that Antrim will test the Farney side to the full on Sunday.
"Antrim are better than their league form would suggest," says Hughes.
"They have been preparing well as far as we are aware and they will be very keen to make full use of their home advantage.
"We won the corresponding match last year but this kind of thing counts for nothing this time round.
"It's worth remembering that we only had three points to spare in that game whereas we had a fairly comfortable win in our most recent league game. But Antrim will definitely be up for battle this weekend."
Hughes actually missed last year's championship encounter because of injury although he returned to lead the side in the Ulster semi-final against Down which they lost by the narrowest of margins – 1-14 to 1-13 – in a game in which he himself contributed two points.
Indeed, both for Monaghan and Ulster, Hughes has been snapping up important scores but on Sunday the bulk of the Farney side's scoring responsibility will rest on the shoulders of players like Owen Duffy, Paul Finlay and Conor McManus.
Walshe meantime will have a key role in defence where he can play with equal facility on the right or left flank.
A sharp tackler and imbued with abundant pace, his vision and support play are such that his name is now one of the first to go down on manager O'Rourke's team sheet.
"We were gutted when we lost to Down in the Ulster Championship last year because we thought we were in with a real chance of getting into the final," recalls Walshe.
"I thought that we played well but Down just got the better of us. There is talk now that we might get into the semi-final this time round but Sunday's match is the only thing on our radar no matter what people are saying.
"It was terrific to get promotion in the league and to be going up to play against better sides in Division Two but to make an impact in the championship would be really something."
He adds: "We are certainly up for this game and we will see where that takes us."