Premier Electric Ulster U21 Football Championship
Paddy McLarnon Cup
A brief respite in the flurry of early-season fixtures finally allows the Ulster U21 Football Championship to get underway this weekend at Kickham’s Creggan in Antrim.
Latton O’Rahilly (Monaghan) v Clann Éireann (Armagh) – Sunday, Creggan, 12:00pm
Lurgan side Clann Éireann return to Creggan again to open this year’s tournament against Monaghan champions Latton.
The Armagh champions navigated past St Eunan’s last year but fell to eventual champions Dromore at the quarter-final stage.
There was no Farney representation in last year’s competition after the withdrawal of Carrick Emmet’s and the waters are further muddied by the discrepancies in age.
Armagh continue to work at U21 level, where Clann Éireann eased to a final victory over Granemore, but Monaghan’s U19 competition means Latton will be able to boost their ranks.
The Orchard side count Armagh senior star Conor Turbitt among their key men while Ruairí McDonald and Aodhán McConville both featured in their two games last year.
Latton meanwhile can call upon the services of former county minor stars Darragh Dempsey and Eoin Duffy, who picked up an Ulster title last season with victory over Tyrone.
The Monaghan side were originally drawn against Derry champions Dungiven, but Cavan side Ramor United’s withdrawal saw them get Clann Éireann in the redrawn competition.
St Brigid’s (Antrim) v Carryduff GAC (Down) – Sunday, Creggan, 1:45pm
A repeat of last year’s so-called BT9 derby as the Antrim and Down champions face each other again on the Loughshore.
It took a late Daniel Guinness winner to separate them in a thrilling 2019 semi-final where both teams attacked with abandon and treated the crowd to a feast of football.
Both have lifted consecutive county titles, having seen off Tír na nÓg and Mayobridge in their respective finals both will feel they have a point to prove.
Carryduff will be looking to go one better than last year’s final defeat to Dromore, while St Brigid’s will be looking to avenge the defeat at the hands of their rivals.
The school side that unites these teams, Our Lady and St Patrick’s, Knock, are currently preparing for a MacLarnon Cup final with a number of players from both clubs involved.
James Smith continues to lead the St Brigid’s line along with county U20 captain Rory Brolly and John Blaney driving from midfield.
Carryduff captain John McGeough joins Down senior stars Daniel Guinness and Owen McCabe for another run at ulster, while county hurler Ronan Beatty is also on their side.
Another thriller could be in store.
An Charraig Mhór (Tyrone) v St Eunan’s (Dongeal) – Sunday, Creggan, 3:30pm
Donegal side St Eunan’s Letterkenny bowed out at the preliminary round stage of this tournament last year but are back looking to make amends once again.
Standing in their way are Tyrone champions Carrickmore, who saw off Dungannon Clarke’s in the Red Hand decider back in December.
The Carmen side are looking to become the fourth team from the county to lift the Paddy McLarnon Cup, while St Eunan’s will bid to clinch Donegal’s second title.
Carrickmore midfielder Paddy McCallan and Daniel Fullerton were the goalscorers in the county final and will need watched closely, while Cormac Munroe featured for the Tyrone U20 side that defeated Antrim in the recent Ulster semi-final.
St Eunan’s saw off Naomh Conaill in the Donegal decider in December and can call on senior panellist Niall O’Donnell, as well as Donegal U20 goalkeeper Ronan McGeehin while Padraig McGettigan will also need watched.
The Tír Chonaill side were disappointed to fall at the final hurdle and will be looking to make amends this weekend.
St Canice’s (Derry) v Enniskillen Gaels (Fermanagh) – Monday, Ahoghill, 7:30pm
This game was the subject of a protracted battle of logic as both sides have players involved in postponed county action this weekend.
St Canice’s have a number of players on the Derry senior hurling panel, while the Gaels have some players involved in the Fermanagh senior football set-up.
The Derry side came through a thrilling county final win over Kilrea, with last minute points from Conor Kelly bringing the title to the banks of the Roe.
Enniskillen had a more serene path to the Staffordstown Road and had nine points to spare over Belleek-Belcoo amalgamation Cleenish, winning 0-10 to 0-1 at Brewster Park in December.
The Erne champions can call on senior panellist Johnny Cassidy and a number of the 2019 St Michael’s side who won the Hogan Cup, including Brandon and Josh Horan.
Conor Love hit 0-3 in last year’s quarter-final and is available again in a boost for Brendan Dooris’ side.
Dungiven’s Cahir Higgins is a player whose stock is on the rise, while senior hurling panellists Richie Mullan and Odhrán McKeever will also cause problems for the Erne side.