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Clerkin forced to play waiting game

By Declan Bogue

Monaghan midfielder Dick Clerkin is facing a race against time to prove his fitness ahead of their Ulster semi-final against Cavan this Saturday in Clones (throw-in, 7pm).

The Currin man began his career with Monaghan back in 1999 and apart from missing the 2003 season, had been ever-present in Monaghan's Championship teams for the past 10 years.

However, in a league match against Inniskeen he broke a bone in his hand – the middle metacarpal – and is highly unlikely to feature against the Breffni blues.

On Thursday, he will go for a scan at the Santry Sports Clinic to see how the break is progressing but for now, it seems as though his astonishing record of consecutive Championship starts is set to end.

Only Johnny Doyle of Kildare has a longer unbroken record.

Captain Eoin Lennon is Clerkin's midfield partner and he also could be out through a niggly injury. If either, or both men are absent, Darren Hughes will have a crucial role to play. The Ulster captain has been featuring around the middle for spells this season and talked about his new role in the wake of the Antrim win.

"I was moved from the half-back line for the league and I suppose it was something the management were looking at from the start of the year. The boys have been doing well in defence and that, and Neil (McAdam) has made number 6 his own," the Scotstown man said.

Malachy O'Rourke's task gets even more difficult with news on Owen Duffy after he suffered ankle ligament damage while playing for Latton in the club Championship for Latton against Carrickmacross.

However, some good news for O'Rourke came with forwards Gavin Doogan and Tommy Freeman both getting a full game of club league action under their belt for Magheracloone against Clontibret.

Dermot Malone, who was unable to start despite being named against Antrim got two games for Castleblayney in recent weeks on his return from a knee injury, while Peter O'Hanlon made his first appearance in action as a sub for Carrickmacross since breaking his collar bone playing in the Sigerson Cup for DCU in February. This is the first Championship meeting of the two neighbouring counties since Cavan beat the Oriel men in the 2001 Ulster semi-final.

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