Compiled by Jackie Cahill
THERE are crucial games down for decision over the weekend as the TG4 Ulster Senior and Junior Championships get underway.
At Kingspan Breffni on Saturday, there’s a cracking double-header as the men and women of Donegal and Tyrone prepare to battle it out.
Donegal are Ulster champions in both codes and Maxi Curran’s ladies will take on Tyrone, the 2018 TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate winners, at 2.45pm.
Tyrone are making their return to the senior ranks after landing silverware at Croke Park last September, and the winners of this clash will face Cavan in the semi-finals on June 15.
On Sunday, attention switches to the Athletic Grounds in Armagh, where there are two potentially excellent games on the agenda.
At 5pm, Antrim and Fermanagh clash in the Junior semi-final, and this game is a repeat of the Lidl NFL Division 4 Final between the sides, which Fermanagh won.
Following that, at 7pm, it’s the meeting of Armagh and Monaghan in the senior semi-final, with the winners guaranteed a safe passage to the June 30 decider.
Saturday, June 8th
TG4 Ulster Senior Championship – Preliminary Round
Donegal v Tyrone; Kingspan Breffni, 2.45pm
DONEGAL, one of the leading contenders for the TG4 All-Ireland Senior title, get their campaign underway on Saturday.
The Ulster Champions, who are aiming for a third successive provincial crown, were going great guns in the early stages of the Lidl National League, before losing out to Galway in the Division 1 semi-finals.
Donegal’s impressive early season form included an opening day League victory over Dublin at Croke Park and they’ll hope to rekindle some of that old sparkle as their 2019 Championship bow looms.
Donegal have made three changes to the side beaten by Galway in the Lidl NFL Division 1 semi-final for their championship opener against Tyrone.
This game is part of an attractive double-header at Kingspan Breffni, alongside the male teams from both counties.
Donegal’s last competitive outing was defeat to Galway on April 20 and manager Maxi Curran has retained 12 of the team that started on that occasion.
TG4 All Star Treasa Doherty, Roisin Rogers and Kate Keeney come into the team for the meeting with the Red Hands, in place of with Niamh Boyle, Megan Ryan and Elaine Melaugh.
Tyrone, meanwhile, have nine of the team that lined out in the 2018 TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Final victory over Meath starting against Donegal, as they prepare for a return to the senior ranks.
Tyrone missed out on a semi-final slot in Division 2 of the Lidl National League but Gerry Moane and his players will have targeted Championship from a long way out.
Donegal (v Tyrone): A McColgan; A.M. McGlynn, E Gallagher, R Rogers; N Carr, N McLaughlin, T Doherty; K Herron, E McGinley; K Guthrie, K Keeney, A Boyle Carr; N Hegarty, G McLaughlin, S McGroddy.
Tyrone (v Donegal): S Lynch; C Hunter, J Barrett, C Conway; S McCarroll, N McGirr, E Brennan; E.J. Gervin, N Woods; N Hughes, M Canavan, A McHugh; N O’Neill, M Mallon, C Kelly.
Sunday, June 9th
TG4 Ulster Junior Championship – Semi-Final
Antrim v Fermanagh, Athletic Grounds, Armagh 5pm
The curtain-raiser to Sunday’s senior tie between Armagh and Monaghan is the Junior semi-final clash between Antrim and Fermanagh, which is a repeat of the Lidl NFL Division 4 Final.
With Eimear Smyth in blistering form, Fermanagh ran out winners on that occasion but they’ve made five changes to the starting line-up that triumphed at St Tiernach’s Park.
Cleona Bogue comes in for goalkeeper Roisin Gleeson, while there are also outfield starts for Aisling Maguire, Aine McGovern, Aisling Woods and Noelle Connolly, who replace Maria Maguire, Courtney Murphy, captain Joanne Doonan, who’s nursing an injury, and Blaithin Bogue.
There are two changes on the Antrim team, with Nicole Jones and Niamh Enright drafted into the attack in place of Cathy Carey and Sara Louise McLaughlin.
Antrim (v Fermanagh): A McCann; N Killen, M Hannan, O Níc Chorra; K Farren, C Brown, S Tennyson; A McFarland, L Dahunsi; C Taggart, M McCurdy, N Jones; M Cooper, N Enright, A Taggart.
Fermanagh (v Antrim): C Bogue; A Maguire, E Murphy, M Flynn; M McGloin, A McGovern, S McQuaid; R O’Reilly, A Flanagan; A Woods, N Connolly, D Maguire; L Maguire, E Smyth, A O’Brien.
TG4 Ulster Senior Championship – Semi-Final
Armagh v Monaghan, Athletic Grounds, Armagh, 7pm
ARMAGH and Monaghan last met in the Championship in the group stages of the All-Ireland series last year, with the game ending in a 1-11 to 1-11 stalemate.
They’ll both play Division 2 Football next year following Monaghan’s relegation, while Armagh came up short in their quest to gain promotion from the second tier.
Monaghan’s last competitive outing was their Division 1 Round 7 clash in the Lidl National League on April 7, when they drew with Mayo.
Manager Niall Treanor has made two changes to the side that started in that game, with Brídín Tierney coming in between the sticks.
Chloe McBride started in goal against Mayo but is named outfield for the Armagh tie, while Hannah McSkane also earns a start.
Dropping out of the team from the Mayo fixture are Lisa Flynn and Leanne Maguire.
Armagh’s last competitive game was on April 20, when they lost to Kerry in the Lidl NFL Division 2 semi-final.
There are three changes from that game, with experienced midfielder Caroline O’Hanlon returning to the side after a glorious netball season with Manchester Thunder.
Blaithin Mackin is also included while captain Caoimhe Morgan is back to anchor the full-back line.
The aforementioned trio replace Niamh Marley, Niamh Murphy and Shauna Grey, who all started in the Kerry game.
Armagh (v Monaghan): C O’Hare; S Marley, C Morgan, R O’Reilly; C McKenna, C McCambridge, T Grimes; N Coleman, C O’Hanlon; M Moriarty, A McCoy, K Mallon; A Donaldson, B Mackin, N Reel.
Monaghan (v Armagh): B Tierney; N Kerr, S Boyd, C Treanor; A McAnespie, H McSkane, S Coyle; A McCarey, E McAnespie; R Courtney, C Courtney, C McBride; E Woods, M Atkinson, C McAnespie.
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