Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 5 August 2015

Ulster Championship: Counties in hot pursuit of glory

Published 11/05/2011 | 08:00

<b>County:</b> Antrim<br />
<b>Manager:</b> Liam Bradley<br />
<b>Captain:</b> Kevin O’Boyle<br />
<b>Key player:</b> Tony Scullion (pictured)<br /> 
<b>Strengths:</b> Fit, energetic and resourceful, the Saffrons play a fast, direct brand of no-frills football. They offer a vibrant team spirit and possess a top-class free-taker in Paddy Cunningham while their confidence is fuelled by the fact that they have acquired a fresh image in the Ulster Championship in more recent times.<br />
<b>Weaknesses:</b> A tendency to concede goals coupled with occasional lapses in concentration has been their undoing in the past. They rely too heavily on just a few players to get scores and need to win much more second-phase possession if they are to make a big impact.<br />
<b>Prediction:</b> They are unlikely to survive their preliminary round meeting with Donegal on Sunday.
County: Antrim
Manager: Liam Bradley
Captain: Kevin O’Boyle
Key player: Tony Scullion (pictured)
Strengths: Fit, energetic and resourceful, the Saffrons play a fast, direct brand of no-frills football. They offer a vibrant team spirit and possess a top-class free-taker in Paddy Cunningham while their confidence is fuelled by the fact that they have acquired a fresh image in the Ulster Championship in more recent times.
Weaknesses: A tendency to concede goals coupled with occasional lapses in concentration has been their undoing in the past. They rely too heavily on just a few players to get scores and need to win much more second-phase possession if they are to make a big impact.
Prediction: They are unlikely to survive their preliminary round meeting with Donegal on Sunday.
Jamie Clarke
County: Cavan
Manager: Val Andrews
Captain: Seanie Johnston (pictured)
Key player: Seanie Johnston
Strengths: Bolstered by youthful exuberance and generous stamina, the Breffni side have been handed a massive incentive to follow the lead of their U21 colleagues by claiming the provincial crown. Skipper Johnston is without doubt one of the best finishers in the country while the newcomers will be keen to make a name for themselves.
Weaknesses: Prone to conceding frees and failing to track opposition players when they drive forward. Not consistent enough at midfield and lacking the overall craft that is an essential ingredient for success at the top level.
Prediction: Winning a last four slot would be a big bonus.
County: Derry
Manager: John Brennan
Captain: Barry McGoldrick
Key player: Gerard O'Kane (pictured)
Strengths: Fortified by a number of players who can take scores from all angles and distances, the Oak Leaf side is largely solid at the back. The fact though that they have not won a provincial crown since 1998 remains a millstone round their necks and they will derive little comfort from having been drawn at home against Fermanagh as Celtic Park has been a graveyard for their hopes in each of the last two years.
Weaknesses: The loss of scorer-in-chief Paddy Bradley through injury, lack of real experience at midfield and a question mark over the central spine of their defence. Also, Derry have imploded in the past when much was expected from them.
Prediction: John Brennan's side are unlikely to get past the semi-final stage.
County: Donegal
Manager: Jim McGuinness
Captain: Michael Murphy
Key Player: Rory Kavanagh (pictured)
Strengths: A formidable twin strike force in skipper Murphy and Colm McFadden, a steely defence underpinned by Karl Lacey and Kevin Cassidy and new-found confidence following their success in winning the National League Division Two title. They also have a generous number of players pushing strongly for starting places.
Weaknesses: Their heads can drop should opponents steal a march on them and some players pursue a 'go it alone' policy rather than passing to a colleague.
Prediction: It will be a big surprise if Donegal are not in the shake-up for the title.
County: Down
Manager: James McCartan
Captain: Ambrose Rogers
Key player: Martin Clarke (pictured)
Strengths: Fluency in attack, a high work-rate at midfield and defensive stability – in short, an efficient, mobile, inventive unit. Their players are comfortable on the ball and Martin Clarke's ability to pull the attacking strings is a central tent of their make-up while a strong bench ensures that everyone is kept on their toes.
Weaknesses: A lack of real authority in the central area because of the protracted absence of Rogers, occasional forays into indiscipline in defence and a penchant for being caught on the hop by quick counter-thrusts.
Prediction: An Ulster final place beckons.
County: Fermanagh
Manager: John O’Neill
Captain: Barry Owens (pictured)
Key player: Hugh Brady
Strengths: Plenty of pace and endeavour, an important measure of experience at the back and a palpable desire to prove themselves on the big stage. The ability of players in the half-forward line and midfield to take scores could also prove a key asset.
Weaknesses: Stripped of a raft of experience following the withdrawal of four key players and having ploughed an undistinguished furrow through the relative backwaters of Division Four in the National League, Fermanagh may find the white heat of the Ulster Championship rather too stifling. The fact too that they still have injury worries for Sunday week's confrontation with Derry does not inspire confidence.
Prediction: First round exit is on the cards.
County: Monaghan
Manager: Eamonn McEnaney (pictured)
Captain: Vinny Corey
Key player: Conor McManus
Strengths: A vibrant spirit that was in evidence during the league even though relegation was unavoidable, master finishers from play and frees in Conor McManus and veteran Paul Finlay and a posse of new faces who will be very keen to leave an imprint on the Championship landscape. The versatility of some of their players, notably Darren Hughes, is a useful bonus.
Weaknesses: Not particularly imposing at midfield and lacking in pace in one or two areas. The fact that they were humiliated in last year's provincial final may also engender apprehension and uncertainty for this campaign.
Will find Tyrone too difficult at first hurdle.
County: Tyrone
Manager: Mickey Harte
Captain: Brian Dooher
Key player: Brian McGuigan (pictured)
Strengths: Liberally endowed with physical power, guile and accurate marksmanship. Vast experience since the side is dotted with triple All Ireland winners. The incentive of landing what would be a third provincial crown in succession will almost certainly further hone their drive for more glory.
Weaknesses: Manager Harte discounts the theory that his side is 'ageing' but there are certainly a lot of miles on the cumulative clock. The full-back line has not been as authoritative of late while the overall mobility may be more limited.
Prediction: That third consecutive title is still within the Red Hands' gambit.

The Ulster Senior Football Championship will swing into action on Sunday when Donegal host Antrim and right now all nine counties harbour aspirations of success. John Campbell assesses their prospects in the province’s flagship competition.

>>Click More Pictures to launch gallery







Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph