Three of Ulster’s most high-profile players are poised to get their first action of 2012 in the second round of Power NI Dr McKenna Cup this weekend.
Seasoned Armagh defender Brendan Donaghy is expected to line out against St Mary’s on Sunday while Down ace Ambrose Rogers (below right) is in the frame to get game time against Monaghan with Antrim veteran Kevin Brady on standby to boost his team’s attack when Tyrone are the visitors to Casement Park.
Donaghy, seven years in the side, will bring strength and stability to the Armagh rearguard while the anticipated return of Rogers would give Down boss James McCartan added options at midfield.
Brady, 13 years with Antrim, still retains his zest for the sport and his guile and clinical finishing could be deployed against Mickey Harte’s side.
Rogers has been out of action for over a year and is particularly anxious to return for Down.
“It has been very frustrating to have to watch matches rather than take part in them but there are a number of players challenging for positions and I just want to be in the mix,” says the strapping midfield ace.
But Derry ace Paddy Bradley, who had been expected to take some part in the game against UUJ on Saturday night, has deferred his return.
The Glenullin clubman has recovered from his cruciate ligament injury but has decided to give himself more time before resuming.
“Ray Moran, the well-known surgeon who has operated on a number of players, was suggesting that people who come back before nine months are up have a greater chance of suffering a recurrence and on his advice, I feel it might be best for me to wait until the start of the National League,” said Bradley.
Yet while he will again be an absentee, the Oak Leaf side could include Mark Lynch, Conleith Gilligan and Niall Holly all of whom came on as substitutes against Cavan with Holly scoring the winning point.
Derry spokesman Chris McCann confirms that there is “a very positive mood” within the side which augers well for their prospects of back to back trophy successes.
“Obviously it is very early days but the signs are encouraging,” maintains McCann.
Fermanagh expect to have James Sherry back in action against Tyrone on Wednesday night now that he has recovered from the dislocated jaw which he sustained in a club match.
“The match against Queen’s this Sunday might be just a little too soon for James but we would be optimistic that he will line out against Tyrone and obviously his experience in a game of this nature would be a considerable help,” explains liaison officer Gerard Tracey.
Meanwhile, Crossmaglen Rangers are livid that that their team’s All-Ireland club semi-final against Dr Crokes has been arranged for Saturday, February 18.
“To be staging this match on a Saturday is a nonsense,” fumes PRO Tom McKay.
“There are quite a number of people who still have to work on Saturdays. I think that the gate will be adversely affected.
“This match involves us in huge financial overheads but the fact that we have to make a lengthy journey dilutes the appeal of the fixture in the eyes of our followers.”