Ulster Minor Football Championship round one
Monaghan v Cavan
(Saturday, Clones, 2pm)
MONAGHAN minor manager Mark Counihan has called on the GAA to reverse their decision to allow only 24 minor players into the controlled zone for matches in this year’s championship.
While the finer details of the controlled zone still remain unclear, Counihan believes that 13 of his panel will not be allowed into Clones on Saturday for their round one clash with Cavan. That, the Truagh clubman feels, is a travesty.
“We’ve had different variations of lockdown over the last few months. The players would have had crowds, no crowds and all different situations to play in,” said Counihan.
“Our biggest concern is that the GAA is only allowing a matchday panel of 24 in.
“We have guys with us from January, through the bit of a league we had, through lockdown and through the latest programme and then to turn around and tell 13 players that they can’t even come and support their teammates is a huge pity. It’s something I hope the GAA should address immediately.
“It’s a big occasion for these guys and now boys who have been with us since January are not allowed to attend and that’s very harsh.
“All these games are in county grounds, behind closed doors so I don’t understand how letting the rest of the panel in is going to be a big problem.
“I think it will be detrimental to their mental health too and I think it’s something the GAA need to change quickly.”
On the match itself, Counihan said that while the Oriel county may be aiming for three Ulster titles in-a-row this year, their past two successes count for very little.
“We definitely have the mindset that there is no such thing as defending champions in minor football. It’s a clean slate for everybody. The year that’s been in it, there’s no form to go by, there are no favourites. It really is everyone’s competition to win.
“With that in mind we are at the foot of the mountain just like every other team. It will be a difficult climb to get to the top of it.
“We’d have two starters from last year’s team still there, Diarmuid Marron and Michael Hamill.
“We got a couple of rounds of the league over us before we got pulled and the standout result was Cavan 2-10 Tyrone 0-4.
“They’re certainly going to be strong opposition. Monaghan-Cavan games do tend to be tight regardless of the age-group, regardless of form, regardless of what division either team is in.”
Cavan boss Gary Farrelly, meanwhile, is confident that his side have what it takes to earn the bragging rights.
“I have great faith in these lads and if Monaghan are to beat us then they’ll have to produce a very good performance to do it,” the Ramor Utd man said. “This is an exceptional bunch of guys that we have this year. After last year’s championship, I got involved with the county u-16s and teamed up with Andy McGovern and Aidan McCabe and I saw at first hand the potential so many of Saturday’s panel have.
“Last year, I saw them play Cork and Kerry in challenge games and they really showed how good they are and hopefully they’ll show something similar this weekend.”
By Niall McCoy