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Calling the shots

 

By Declan Bogue

Bank of Ireland

Dr McKenna Cup

Section A

DOWN v DONEGAL

(Sunday, Pairc Esler, 1.30pm)

Minus Kevin McKernan, Darren O’Hagan, Darragh O’Hanlon, Conor Maginn, Donal O’Hare and Connaire Harrison, Down’s new boss Paddy Tally is carrying a very inexperienced squad in the Dr McKenna Cup indeed, but isn’t this what it was intended for?

Donegal themselves are not exactly playing off a full deck just yet but there is no doubt Declan Bonner has a much more seasoned group, even without the absent Gaoth Dobhair players who will not be available until at least well into the league campaign with their upcoming All-Ireland club semi-final against Corofin.

Right now they are down Ryan McHugh, Michael Murphy, Frank McGlynn, Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Leo McLoone, Anthony Thompson as well as the half dozen from the county champions, but even at that, they will have too much.

VERDICT: Donegal

Bank of Ireland

Dr McKenna Cup

Section A

CAVAN v QUB

(Sunday, Ballyconnell, 1.30pm)

The novel surroundings of Ballyconnell gets to host the first county game in long many number of years on Sunday as Cavan make a rare appearance in west Cavan.

While they probably deserved their win over Down last weekend, Cavan also lived dangerously and it came as no surprise that Breffni goalkeeper Raymond Galligan won the Man of the Match award after he produced three saves and contributed three points himself from the dead ball.

Opponents Queen’s are not in particularly great shape with a number of potential players opting instead to line out for their county.

VERDICT: Cavan

Bank of Ireland

Dr McKenna Cup

Section B

MONAGHAN v ST MARY’S

(Sunday, Clones, 1.30pm)

It was an experimental Monaghan side that eased themselves into the 2019 season with an eight point win over Antrim last weekend, the most notable thing about the game probably the invasion of a couple dozen sheep who took their place on the hill end opposite the Gerry Arthurs Stand.

With Ryan McAnespie deputising for Conor McManus at full-forward and the main scoring threat provided by Jack McCarron, Malachy O’Rourke’s men will get progressively stronger as the month goes on, and they are bolstered by Dessie Mone and Vinny Corey once again pledging themselves for the season ahead.

St Mary’s are weaker than they might have been over previous seasons and fell to a heavy defeat to Armagh in the first round, shipping six goals in the process.

VERDICT: Monaghan

Bank of Ireland

Dr McKenna Cup

Section B

ANTRIM v ARMAGH

(Sunday, Glenavy, 1.30pm)

Armagh are set to welcome Jamie Clarke back to inter-county football and it will be interesting to see what can be achieved now that manager Kieran McGeeney has managed to persuade all his key targets to commit to the county side in 2019.

Heading into a difficult Division Two campaign, they could do with winning regular games but their cause has not been helped by Oisin O’Neill requiring surgery on his ankle injury which is likely to keep him out  until the latter stages of the league.

VERDICT: Armagh

Bank of Ireland

Dr McKenna Cup

Section C

FERMANAGH v DERRY

(Sunday, Brewster Park, 1.30pm)

Erne boss Rory Gallagher has a few games now to prepare his side for life without last year’s leading scorer Seamus Quigley. The handpass restriction is frustrating Gallagher – as it is many other managers – and this is unlikely to be a high-scoring affair because of precisely the measure the new rules have caused due to the law of unintended consequences.

VERDICT: Fermanagh

Bank of Ireland

Dr McKenna Cup

Section C

TYRONE v UUJ

(Sunday, Healy Park, 1.30pm)

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte and his players get back from the team holiday to Thailand the day before this game and some of the squad will be required to shake the long haul flight out of their legs for this one.

Darragh Canavan, son of Peter, gets his first start in a senior jersey for the Red Hand county, as does schoolboy Matthew Murnaghan. 

VERDICT: TYRONE

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