Fermanagh have strong form, but Monaghan can shade it

Fermanagh v Monaghan : IT'S A TRICK of the scheduling that this is by some distance the match of the day, but the meeting of…

Fermanagh v Monaghan: IT'S A TRICK of the scheduling that this is by some distance the match of the day, but the meeting of these ambitious neighbours would hold its own even on a more box-office afternoon.

Both have had significant championship seasons in recent years, but Monaghan did so more recently when running Kerry so close in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final. Fermanagh, under the astute management of Malachy O'Rourke have maintained progress by securing promotion last month, whereas Monaghan failed to close the deal on a promising position with two matches left.

In the effort to reach Division One, Séamus McEnaney didn't experiment much during the league, whereas O'Rourke has developed a fluid style using different players and rotating for instance captain and former All Star Martin McGrath between centrefield and full forward and rotating what is a versatile bunch of players.

Gary McQuaid isn't named in the Monaghan team, but has been training and playing with his club and will be expected to make an entrance at an early stage or indeed be the subject of those pre-match fógra announcements.


FERMANAGH: R Gallagher; S Goan, H Brady, P Sherry; D Kelly, R McCluskey, T McElroy; M Murphy, S McDermott; R Keenan, J Sherry, M Little; E Maguire, M McGrath, C McElroy.

MONAGHAN: S Duffy; D Mone, JP Mone, D McArdle; D Freeman, D Hughes, P McGuigan; E Lennon, P Finlay; D Clerkin, S Gollogly, C McManus; R Woods, V Corey, T Freeman.

Referee: Derek Fahy (Longford).

In the last episode: Six years ago, when the sides met in Clones, Fermanagh's Rory Gallagher equalled the old John Joyce football championship scoring record by hitting 3-9. There's been a lot of water under the bridge since with both counties making a big impact on the All-Ireland stage in 2004 and last year respectively.

The last time the counties met here in Enniskillen in the championship, current All Star Tommy Freeman came on as a replacement to make his senior championship debut for Monaghan.

You bet: Fermanagh are available at 7/4, the draw is 13/2 and Monaghan are favourites at 8/13.

On your marks: Vincent Corey's move from full back to full forward in the Ulster final last year nearly turned the match against Tyrone. It's Fermanagh's bad luck to be still without Barry Owens, one of the game's top full backs and how Hugh Brady and whoever else is detailed to man the edge of the square get on will have a major bearing on the outcome.

Gaining ground: Brewster Park is named after the late Michael Brewster, father of former county player Paul and Tom, on the Fermanagh bench this afternoon and scorer of the legendary point that beat Armagh at Croke Park in 2004. The ground has just has been redeveloped and this is its first championship afternoon.

Just the ticket: Covered stand tickets (€27/£20) are virtually sold out and family tickets (adults €25 and children €5) have all been distributed through the clubs. Uncovered stand (€25/£18) and terrace (€18/£13) are still available.

Crystal gazing: Despite the dangers posed by this fixture, we'll take Séamus McEnaney's Monaghan's side to survive the trip.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times