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Sparks will fly in the battle to rule Ulster

Scene is perfectly set with fierce rivals having scores to settle as they begin pursuit of Championship honours

By Declan Bogue

Published 10/05/2016

Up for the Cup: Down's Kevin McKernan and Monaghan's Jack McCarron get their hands on the silverware during the launch of the 2016 Ulster Senior Football Championship
Up for the Cup: Down's Kevin McKernan and Monaghan's Jack McCarron get their hands on the silverware during the launch of the 2016 Ulster Senior Football Championship

This Sunday, the 128th instalment of the Ulster Senior Football Championship gets under way when referee Sean Hurson hoists the ball into the air for the preliminary round meeting of Fermanagh and Antrim in Brewster Park.

The home side, although enjoying a high profile of late due to their run to last year's All-Ireland quarter-final and a credible performance against eventual champions Dublin, go in search of their first-ever provincial title.

Antrim can boast nine Championships, including their six-in-a-row in 1908 to 1913, but the only two titles landed since that golden spell were in 1946 and 1951.

Unsurprisingly, most will see the following week, when Tyrone travel to Celtic Park in Derry seeking their first-ever Championship win at the venue, as the moment the summer will explode into action.

Stung by their All-Ireland semi-final exit last year and brimming with confidence after embarking on a 16-game unbeaten run, Mickey Harte's men are level with Donegal on the betting exchanges to retain a title they last won in 2010.

Harte was keen to point out that after his first eight seasons, Tyrone supporters had grown almost blasé about winning the provincial title. The lacklustre celebrations following that 2010 win as ample evidence.

Tyrone now hunger for Ulster. Donegal see it as base camp, from where they travel in search of greater glories further down the line.

And what of Monaghan, who have won it twice in the last three years with the most under-rated manager in the game, Malachy O'Rourke?

Ulster features big games and big teams. Big personalities, big rivalries and big scores to settle.

Here, we present for you a guide to each team, their key personnel and how they might shape up in a long, hot summer.

Belfast Telegraph

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