Ulster SFC preview: potential Donegal-Tyrone semi-final could be decisive
17 May 2017
Tyrone's Sean Cavanagh lifts the Anglo-Celt Cup.
Monaghan and Fermanagh will get the Ulster senior football championship underway this Saturday when they cross swords in Clones, where the home side are hotly fancied to deliver the goods against their neighbours.
Jack McCarron’s return during the National League has saw the Farney men add another legitimate weapon to their arsenal, with talisman Conor McManus having led the line for them so brilliantly in recent seasons. The Clontibret man is surely one of three top forwards in the country at present and his contribution during his county’s Anglo-Celt Cup victories in 2013 and 2015 is a large part of the reason why their provincial title count is now at 15.
At 66/1, Fermanagh still await their first Ulster senior title and should they achieve an upset this weekend they’ll face Mattie McGleenan’s Cavan side in Enniskillen on June 11th.
The Breffni men suffered the drop from Division 1 last month after a regretful loss to already relegated Roscommon in the final round and will no doubt be up for next month’s derby, with a Monaghan win on Saturday giving them home advantage in next month’s quarter-final.
On the same side, Down and Armagh do battle in Newry in what should be a close encounter between the two neighbours and both are sorely in need of a first round win after having endured some disappointing summers in recent years.
Sunday sees Rory Gallagher’s Donegal side enter the fray and should they book an expected win against Antrim in Ballybofey they’ll play the winners of Derry and holders Tyrone on June 18th.
Mickey Harte’s charges summoned a superb finish against Gallagher’s side in Clones last July to earn their first provincial crown in six years and open against an Oak Leaf side which looked off-colour during the league before dropping down to Division 3.
On the other hand, both Tyrone and Donegal more than held their own over the past couple of months in Division 1 and when they met in March it was the latter that looked a much more superior outfit.
Many will argue that championship is entirely different territory, but there can’t be much debating that the Tir Chonaill men are carrying the form heading into this particular Anglo-Celt Cup race.
Odds (supplied by Ladbrokes): Tyrone 7/4; Donegal 11/4; Monaghan 4/1; Cavan 8/1; Armagh 10/1; Derry 16/1; Down 18/1; Fermanagh 66/1, Antrim 150/1
May 20: Preliminary round: Monaghan v Fermanagh, St Tiernach’s Park
May 21: Quarter-final: Donegal v Antrim, MacCumhaill Park
May 28: Quarter-final: Derry v Tyrone, Celtic Park
June 4: Quarter-final: Down v Armagh, Pairc Esler
June 11: Quarter-final: Cavan v Monaghan/Fermanagh
June 18: Semi-final: Derry/Tyrone v Donegal/Antrim
June 24: Semi-final: Down/Armagh v Cavan/Monaghan/Fermanagh
July 16: Final