Ulster Minor Football Championship quarter-final
Antrim v Monaghan
Saturday 24th October (Cargin 2pm)
Antrim minor footballers face a stiff task when they take on Monaghan in Toome this Saturday with throw in scheduled for 2pm.
Monaghan come into the game as huge favourites. They have won the last 2 Ulster minor titles and defeated a highly rated Cavan team in a preliminary round game in Clones on Saturday past.
Monaghan have 2 players who started last year’s Ulster final, Diarmuid Marron and playmaker Michael Hamill.
Stephen Mooney is the man who will take some watching however as he scored 1-7 of Monaghan’s 1-8 total against Cavan including a goal three minutes into time added on which snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Monaghan certainly didn’t get it all their own way against a sharp Cavan side who led most of the way and were in pole position at the halfway stage thanks to a goal from Liam Fay.
Mooney got Monaghan back in touch with four points early in the second half but the Breffni Blues looked set for victory when they led by two in injury time before Mooney’s late strike sealed it for the Farney county.
Antrim were going well before the lockdown with victories over Down and Armagh but like everyone else all that pre-season work has gone out the window now.
The biggest issue is that the team haven’t played a game of any kind since March as they had several challenge games cancelled as the rules changed seemingly week on week.
Under the new Covid regulations only 24 players and one parent per player can be allowed into the game. Very harsh on the other seven members of the panel who don’t get to tog out and are not even allowed in to watch the game.
Manager Paddy Kelly remains positive however when we spoke to him after a useful training session last Saturday at Dunsilly. “Training has been going well with a great buzz around the team. Sean McKenna and Donal Laverty have been coaching these lads for nearly two years now and have done a terrific job. Andrew Hasson has come in post lockdown as goal keeping coach alongside Cathal McMullan as analyst and Peter McKeever as selector and we are in good shape”.
Antrim have a useful panel and Sean Duffin, Eunan Quinn, Jack Hannon and Conchuir Johnston have all been playing at McCrory cup level for their schools.
The team is captained by Casement’s Daniel McNicholl and he is joined by 7 of his St Louis teammates and the team has 15 clubs represented on the panel.
The Saffrons played a full inhouse game at Dunsilly on Saturday and there was a confident mood amongst the panel.
Injury has forced centre half back Shaun O’Callaghan to miss Saturday’s game while Sean Duffin and Conchuir Johnston will undergo fitness tests on Wednesday to establish if they are now clear of injuries.
Monaghan will start this one as favourites but the majority of this Antrim side have been together for a couple of years and if they can get off to a good start then they won’t be too far away come 3.15 on Saturday evening