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Red Hands aim to seize chance to reinforce position at summit



Big player: Monaghan’s Conor McManus poses a major threat to Tyrone’s hopes of victory tomorrow

Big player: Monaghan’s Conor McManus poses a major threat to Tyrone’s hopes of victory tomorrow

Big player: Monaghan’s Conor McManus poses a major threat to Tyrone’s hopes of victory tomorrow

With Tyrone propping themselves up at the top of Division One after just one game, the short trip to the market town of Castleblayney this weekend presents a number of problems.

Traditionally, Tyrone have struggled at this venue. Two years ago in a Saturday night fixture, Conor McManus came off the bench to torture the Red Hands and condemn them to defeat. Last year Tyrone returned the favour as they got their season up and running and hit upon the formula of Cathal McShane at full-forward.

It must be said that Tyrone benefitted greatly from Meath's naivety in the league opener.

There is no getting away from the fact that Meath's regular goalkeeper getting injured in the warm-up was disastrous for them. His replacement lost four kickouts to Tyrone hands before being replaced at half time, and the third man in coughed up possession from eight Meath kickouts.

Along with the superior conditioning and reserves of belief, Meath were handed a stern lesson that Monaghan will surely not lie down to.

Last week's opening defeat to Galway came at the very death, with the westerners making a goal line clearance from a Christopher McGuinness shot, and the new expansive Galway style might have caught Monaghan somewhat by surprise, though they still had a missed penalty by Conor McManus to rue.

Donegal dropped the full complement of points last Saturday night when James Durcan wriggled through their defence to rescue a draw for Mayo in Ballybofey with the last kick of the game.

The following day, Donegal manager Declan Bonner took himself along to Omagh to watch Tyrone dismantle Meath and, while he made all the right noises about this weekend's opposition in his weekly press briefing, he knows the Royals are in deep trouble.

After goalkeeper Andrew Colgan was injured in the warm-up, they had to play Dominic Yorke, who in turn was replaced at half-time by Barry Dardis. Neither man had a happy afternoon and it was estimated that current manager Andy McEntee has now tried no fewer than 11 men as Meath goalkeeper in his tenure.

By contrast, Donegal have a virtual embarrassment of riches in the position. Shaun Patton is one of the finest exponents of goalkeeping in the country behind Dublin's Stephen Cluxton, while they also have former All-Star Paul Durcan on the bench.

Division Two plays host to a number of Ulster teams, but none with the same level of expectation attached as Armagh following their thumping of Cavan last Saturday night. They have also unearthed a player of real potential in Conor Turbitt, who scored 1-6 on his full debut.

They have a serious test of their credentials this weekend when they face promotion hopefuls Laois, who could only draw against Clare last weekend.

Armagh have played Laois five times in Kieran McGeeney's time in charge and lost four times, the other being a replayed qualifier tier after a dispute over the number of substitutes Laois used. A win in Portlaoise tonight will leave the Orchard men well set.

Cavan are at home to Westmeath, trying to atone for what manager Mickey Graham said after last weekend's defeat was a performance that meant they owe the Cavan football public an apology.

Fermanagh have Roscommon at home and were able to welcome their promising defender Ultan Kelm back for their league opener last weekend against Kildare.

There's a huge game for Down and Derry tonight when they meet in Newry.

Both sides drew against Tipperary and Leitrim respectively last weekend - a loss for either would be unthinkable and could maroon them in Tier Two come summer.

Finally, Antrim will be looking to take their good form to Sligo when they meet tomorrow in Division Four.

Belfast Telegraph