|Ulster SFC: Monaghan v Fermanagh|
|Venue: St Tiernach’s Park, Clones Date: Saturday, 20 May Throw-in: 19:00 BST Coverage: Live on BBC TWO NI from 18:40 BST; commentary on Radio Ulster 1341 MW and BBC Sport website from 18:45|
Fermanagh boss Pete McGrath hands a championship debut to Conor Murphy for Saturday evening’s Ulster Football opener against Monaghan.
With McGrath without several experienced campaigners, the side has only seven starters from last summer’s qualifier defeat by Mayo.
Left-half forward Dessie Ward will be Monaghan’s only championship debutant.
With Darren Hughes ruled out by injury, Karl O’Connell switches to midfield in a largely experienced Monaghan side.
Cian McManus and Kane Connor will be making their first championship starts for Fermanagh although they did come on as substitutes during last summer’s campaign.
McGrath believes Ernemen can upset Monaghan
McGrath believes his side can upset Monaghan despite being without several experienced campaigners.
Injury has ruled out Ruairi Corrigan, Declan McCusker, Owen McManus and Ryan Jones.
Richard O’Callaghan, James McMahon, Marty O’Brien and Damian Kelly are also missing but McGrath remains positive.
That leaves Michael Jones, Che Cullen, Aiden Breen, Eoin Donnelly, Ryan Lyons, Sean Quigley and Tomas Corrigan as the survivors from the controversial defeat by Mayo last summer although Kane Connor and Paul McCusker did come on as substitutes in that game.
“If we play to our potential, we can still be very, very competitive against Monaghan,” said the Erne county boss.
McGrath accepts that Monaghan will go into the Clones game as favourites having won two of the last four Ulster titles.
Fermanagh relegated to Division Three in League
Malachy O’Rourke’s Farney County side also produced a solid league campaign as they comfortably retained their Division One status while in contrast, Fermanagh dropped back to Division Three in a major setback for the county.
“Yes they are a very accomplished team and they are experienced in the right way, with them certainly not an old team,” admits McGrath.
“Their system of play has been road-tested and found to be successful so it’s a huge task for us.
“But the championship is about performance collectively as a team and individually as players.
“We have worked very hard over this last number of weeks. We too have a lot of very high-quality footballers.”
Holding midfielder O’Callaghan looks a big loss for McGrath’s side after opting out to spend time in Australia.
Defenders O’Brien and Kelly opted to quit inter-county duty over the winter while the injury list included Ruairi Corrigan who missed the entire league campaign following shoulder surgery.
Monaghan: R Beggan; F Kelly, D Wylie, R Wylie; C Walshe (capt), V Corey, N McAdam; K Hughes, K O’Connell; G Doogan, S Carey, D Ward; C McCarthy, J McCarron, C McManus. Subs: C Forde, K Duffy, J Mealiff, D Mone, B Greenan, A Lynch, D Malone, O Duffy, R McAnespie, T Kerr, M Bannigan.
Fermanagh: T Treacy; M Jones, C Cullen, C McManus; A Breen, R McCluskey, CP Murphy; E Donnelly, L Cullen; B Mulrone, R Lyons, P McCusker; K Connor, Sean Quigley, T Corrigan.