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Tyrone and Derry are primed for battle

By John Campbell

Tyrone and Derry could now be getting up close and personal on not one but two fronts within the next few weeks.

The sides are due to meet at Celtic Park in an attractive National League Division Two opener next Saturday night that is expected to test the capacity of the venue and now that the Oak Leaf side are through to the Barrett Sports Lighting Dr McKenna Cup final they may well be lining up against their Red Hand neighbours in the March final.

Tyrone’s 1-18 to 2-11 victory over UUJ on Saturday night meant that they negotiated their Section A schedule with three wins from three games and they will now go in as favourites against Cavan, who finished the fourth best-placed side, in the second semi-final on Saturday week.

Cavan made a spirited start to their campaign by restricting a strong Derry side to a 1-12 to 1-10 victory and since then they have overcome both Queen’s and Monaghan.

But they will find Tyrone a much different proposition particularly now that Mickey Harte’s side has gained confidence.

And with competition for places hotting up, the Red Hands boss will have rich selection options at his disposal.

Ulster Council secretary Danny Murphy has confirmed that as soon as the McKenna Cup finalists are known the date and venue for the decider will be confirmed.

“I would have to say that although the competition was delayed in part because of adverse weather and the tragic death of Michaela McAreavey it quickly gained in momentum and we have had some very high quality matches so far. I think it is building up to a very interesting climax,” says Murphy.

Meanwhile, former Monaghan manager Seamus McEnaney experienced a setback in his new role as Meath boss when they lost to Dublin by 2-16 to 2-14 in the O’Byrne Shield final.

“I obviously would like to have won the game but I have been focused on getting a team strategy going and hopefully this will manifest itself in the league,” said McEnaney.

All three Ulster teams in Division One of the National League will be featured in what will be the proverbial feast of live televised matches on Saturday night and Sunday next. Topping the bill, not surprisingly, will be the Armagh v Dublin clash which will be broadcast by Setanta Ireland while the Mayo v Down game will be shown on Setanta Sports 1 and there will be deferred coverage of the Monaghan v Galway match.

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