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Harte is determined to land blow on Monaghan and climb up table

 

By Declan Bogue

In a bumper weekend for the Allianz Leagues, glamour fixtures are popping up everywhere.

Most eyes will be drawn to the meeting of Mayo and Dublin in a repeat of last year's All-Ireland final, but one of the hardest-fought games will be at St Mary's Park in Castleblayney where home side Monaghan host neighbours Tyrone.

It really is simple for Tyrone -lose tonight and their season could go into a tailspin with Donegal, Mayo and Kerry left to come in the remainder of the league campaign.

With an extra win to their name, Monaghan are in slightly more comfortable territory but they don't want the Red Hands to gain any ground, especially with Donegal, a resurgent Galway and Dublin to follow.

The neighbours also meet in the Ulster Championship later in the summer, so it is no surprise that manager Mickey Harte has named his strongest-looking Tyrone side for this one.

The other game involving Ulster representation in the top flight is Donegal meeting Kildare, with both sides rooted to the bottom with no points from their first three games.

However, Donegal's situation looks a little less desperate. Declan Bonner's men claimed the Dr McKenna Cup last weekend, but they also showed enough in opening narrow defeats to Dublin, Kerry and Galway that their younger breed are maturing nicely, with Niall O'Donnell flashing over three points from play in last weekend's triumph.

In Division Two, Down can build on their promising start when they host Clare in Newry.

Early wins over Roscommon and Louth were offset against the loss after a long trip to Cork, but there is reasonable optimism that Eamonn Burns' men can start looking up the table rather than below them.

A test of character was in store in the last game away to Roscommon, but the Mourne defence functioned superbly on the day, showing signs of a more ruthless streak that brought them to last year's Ulster final.

Table-toppers Cavan - and such a prospect looked decidedly dubious prior to the league starting - have a trip to the sparkling new Pairc Ui Chaoimh to look forward to tomorrow when they face second-placed Cork.

No fewer than 10 debutants took the field for Cavan in their opening-round draw with Clare, with snatching a draw at the death a major moment for their development.

In Division Three, it is a huge showdown for Ulster rivals Derry and Fermanagh tonight as they go head-to-head under the Brewster Park floodlights.

Derry only got off the mark in their third game, at home to pointless Offaly, while Rory Gallagher's Ernemen have been undefeated so far with wins over Wexford, Offaly and Sligo.

With Armagh also to come to Brewster Park, they are in a good position to push for promotion. Their cause is also helped by the fact that Derry are still without their Slaughtneil contingent.

However, manager Damian McErlain has brought a number of players from his successful minor teams into senior football and it must be said that the management of this team is certainly a long-term project.

Armagh also have a 100% record that they put on the line when they make the trip to Tullamore to face an Offaly side that appear to be out of their depth.

Kieran McGeeney's side have been free-scoring all year, with Ethan Rafferty emerging as a central figure in attack. Their average score in league games so far is 20 points, while Offaly's average concession is just a fraction more than that.

Finally, Antrim can keep their bid to get out of the basement of Division Four going when they make the trip to London, the exiles playing all their games at home this season due to the development of McGovern Park in Ruislip.

Antrim should nab a win here.

Belfast Telegraph

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