Monaghan continue to sift through their options
DR McKENNA CUP:It’s far too soon to consider it anything more than a very mild All-Ireland winning hangover, and Donegal’s two successive opening defeats of 2013 come with the reminder that they had five successive opening defeats in 2012, including all three Dr McKenna Cup games, plus their opening two games in the Allianz Football League.
Indeed Donegal lost to Derry, Cavan and UUJ in the 2012 Dr McKenna Cup, then to Down and Laois in the first two rounds of the league, before finally getting a win under their belt against Cork, on March 4th.
It certainly didn’t do them any harm in the long run , did it?
On that basis Jim McGuinness will not be any more or less concerned about the outcome of this evening’s Dr McKenna Cup game against St Mary’s, partly because Donegal have nothing left to play for.
Defeats to Fermanagh last week and then Monaghan last Sunday means they have no chance of making the semi-finals, and with that McGuinness will field an even paler shadow of his All-Ireland winning panel.
It’s been a pale enough shadow already, with less than 10 of his All-Ireland winning panel currently on call. The 2012 footballer-of-the-year Karl Lacey is still recovering from hip surgery, All-Ireland winning captain Michael Murphy’s loyalties are currently with DCU, and most of the others are being eased back into it after the team holiday to Dubai earlier this month.
That’s not saying this evening’s final round of games aren’t of interest. Tyrone are poised to make Sunday’s semi-finals, but still have to beat UUJ to be sure, as the top team in each of the three divisions makes it through to the last four, with the best runner -up also going through.
Monaghan and Fermanagh certainly have it all to play for when they meet in Inniskeen: both teams are unbeaten, and a draw could see both sides go through.
Down can also qualify if they defeat Armagh in Newry, while an Armagh win would still leave them looking at points difference.
Finally, Derry can also sneak through if they record a convincing win over Antrim in Celtic Park.
Despite the relatively high stakes, new Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke has once again juggled his team, making 11 changes made from the Donegal victory.
Midfielder Gerard McArdle makes his McKenna Cup debut on his home ground, Shane McQuillan gets his first start at wing forward, and Drew Wylie makes his first start of 2013 at full back.
Rory Beggan, Fintan Kelly, Neil McAdam, Dick Clerkin, Pádraig Donaghy, Stephen Smyth, Owen Duffy and Dermot Malone also return to the starting team.
MONAGHAN: (SF v Fermanagh): Rory Beggan; Owen Coyle, Drew Wylie, Conor Galligan; Fintan Kelly, Neil McAdam, David Hughes; Gerard McArdle, Dick Clerkin; Shane McQuillan, Pádraig Donaghy, Stephen Smyth; Owen Duffy, Kieran Hughes, Dermot Malone.