The lay of the land across Ulster

AS the league heads into another crucial weekend, Michael McMullan takes a glance at the 2023 progress of all nine Ulster counties…

(1) Derry

RORY Gallagher’s men have left themselves on the same track as last year in their hope of promotion. The Oakleafers have notched an average of two points more than their opening four games before that fateful draw in Dr Hyde Park that threw them off the rails.

The 11-point tally of last year would see them promoted this time around and with two home games remaining they looks odds on to add promotion to their McKenna Cup win.

Games played: 8

Players used: 28 (starters: 21)

Started every game: 9

Top scorer: Shane McGuigan 3-41 (from play: 1-18)

Goals scored: 9

Goals conceded: 7

Final NFL games: Dublin (H), Clare (H), Cork (A)

Ulster SFC: Fermanagh (A)

(2) Cavan

ALONG with Derry, Cavan are the only other team in the country to have tasted all four divisions in the last decade with an Ulster title also thrown into the mix.

A McKenna Cup semi-final defeat to Tyrone is the only blot on Mickey Graham’s 2023 record though the Breffni supremo warned this week how quickly football can change.

Their progress has all came without Gearóid McKernan and Thomas Galligan, two giants from last season. Cavan can afford one slip and still go up.

Games played: 7

Players used: 36 (starters: 25)

Started every game: 6

Top scorer: Oisin Brady 1-25 (from play: Brandon Boylan 1-7Ryan O’Neill 2-4)

Goals scored: 5

Goals conceded: 3

Final NFL games: Down (H), Antrim (A), Fermanagh (H)

Ulster SFC: ArmaghAntrim preliminary round winner

(-3) Tyrone

IT’S been another season of mediocrity for the Red Hands. From the moment to missed frees failed to kill off Derry in the group stages of the McKenna Cup, they have only their league win over Donegal as any glimmer of light.

The kickback after the hurt of 2022 has failed materialise despite being Ulster’s most recent winners of Sam. We always write off Tyrone at our peril, but it’s hard to make a case for them staying up.

Games played: 8

Players used: 30 (starters: 28)

Started every game: 1 (Cormac Munroe)

Top scorer: Darren McCurry 1-18 (from play: Darragh Canavan 0-10)

Goals scored: 2

Goals conceded: 11

Final NFL games: Kerry (H), Monaghan (A), Armagh (H)

Ulster SFC: Monaghan (H)

(-3) Down

CONOR Laverty had Down flying out of the traps earlier in the season with all the hallmarks of a team bursting to put some much needed pride back into the jersey.

While they have only lost once – to Sean Quigley’s late goal – Down haven’t had the same spark in the league but they are still in the mix.

With two away games left, the fixtures will make Down’s promotion case all the harder. If they can take something from Breffni this weekend, they could be moving up.

Games played: 7

Players used: 39 (starters: 32)

Started every game: 1 (Pierce Laverty)

Top scorer: Pat Havern 1-22 (from play: Andrew Gilmore 2-7)

Goals scored: 15

Goals conceded: 7

Final NFL games: Cavan (A), Longford (H), Offaly (A)

Ulster SFC: Donegal (H)

(-5) Monaghan

The Farney County were tipped for relegation by many at the start of the year, but their last two weekends will have given them a huge boost of confidence with back-to-back wins.

With Conor McManus and Jack McCarron back in the fold, much could hinge on their home game against Tyrone. Vinny Corey’s men could still take a point from Galway this weekend. Staying up is possibility.

Games played: 6

Players used: 34 (starters: 28)

Started every game: 2

Top scorer: Micheál Bannigan 0-21 (from play: Stephen O’Hanlon 0-11Sean Jones 1-8)

Goals scored: 2

Goals conceded: 8

Final NFL games: Galway (A), Tyrone (H), Mayo (A)

Ulster SFC: Tyrone (A)

(-5) Fermanagh

A NARROW defeat in Tullamore has been Fermanagh’s only league blip this season with two late, late shows against Down and Antrim shooting them into the promotion mix.

Lee Cullen’s return is a boost, but they’ll need more out of an attack that has leant on Sean Quigley to pull them out in the last two games.

Of the Ulster sides, they have the toughest finish and need to ensure full points from the visit of Tipperary this weekend.

Games played: 6

Players used: 31 (starters: 26)

Started every game: 5

Top scorer: Sean Quigley 2-8 (from play: Ultan Kelm 2-6)

Goals scored: 7

Goals conceded: 7

Final NFL games: Tipperary (H), Westmeath (H), Cavan (A)

Ulster SFC: Derry (H)

(-7) Armagh

ARMAGH have not won a game since their visit to Castleblayney on the opening weekend, but they pulled out all the stops to rescue an unlikely point against an unbeaten Mayo.

Life in Division One is far from easy and challenge for Armagh is to get more consistency into their performances.

Taking two points this weekend would go a long way to secure the safety two home games should help them gain.

Games played: 6

Players used: 41 (starters: 26)

Started every game: 4

Top scorer: Rian O’Neill 0-19 (from play: Conor Turbitt 1-6)

Goals scored: 4

Goals conceded: 5

Final NFL games: Donegal (H), Galway (H), Tyrone (A)

Ulster SFC: Antrim (H)

(-7) Donegal

CONSISTENCY is the magic work Donegal are looking for after a battling draw last weekend in Letterkenny after a finale to a game they created much and delivered little in the scoring stakes.

The battling qualities will have given them encouragement moving forward to this weekend’s visit to Armagh.

Survival is not beyond them. While the point gained last weekend will be vital, their -15 score difference won’t be their friend in the coming weeks.

Games played: 6

Players used: 38 (starters: 30)

Started every game: 4

Top scorer: Conor O’Donnell 0-11 (from play: same)

Goals scored: 4

Goals conceded: 5

Final NFL games: Armagh (A), Mayo (H), Roscommon (A)

Ulster SFC: Down (A)

(9) Antrim

IF endeavour counted on the league table, Antrim could be looking towards a league final and promotion. But it doesn’t work like that and the Saffrons must learn to win games and they must do so very soon.

Longford and Tipperary’s draw will have helped Andy McEntee’s side, but they are going to have to make it count themselves. A tough ask to stay away from the bottom tier and they might need other counties to help them out by keeping Longford and Tipperary down.

Games played: 6

Players used: 33 (starters: 27)

Started every game: 4

Top scorer: Dominic McEnhill 0-15 (from play: Odhran Eastwood 3-3)

Goals scored: 8

Goals conceded: 10

Final NFL games: Westmeath (A), Cavan (H), Longford (A)

Ulster SFC: Armagh (A)

  • Rankings and statistics based from all games played during the 2023 season. Extra value added for McKenna Cup progress from semi-finals onwards and for higher NFL divisions.

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