Eagerly awaited 2019 Ulster Championship

April 1, 2019

 ● Uster Senior Football Championship

Now that the dust has settled on their respective counties Allianz National Football League campaign County managers have to endure a month of club action for their players as they prepare for an eagerly awaited 2019 Ulster Senior Football Championship campaign.

Defending Ulster champions Donegal have just captured the Division Two League title with a thrilling 1-17 to 1-15 win over Meath on their way to a quick return to Division One football following last year’s relegation. Two more Ulster sides Tyrone (who narrowly missed out on a place in the Division One League final) and Monaghan will be playing Division One football with Donegal next year.

Relegated Cavan will join both Armagh and Fermanagh who both consolidated their Division Two status following promotion last year. Newly crowned Division Four League champions Derry will join Down in Division Three of the league next year whilst Antrim will remain in Division Four following their failed promotion.

But as we all know it’s the championship that matters and in keeping with trends for the past number of years Ulster as a championship is miles ahead of the rest in terms of competitiveness, openness and hard to predict a winner. 2019 starts on May 12 with a Preliminary round match featuring a rejuvenated Derry and Ulster title favourites Tyrone. Mickey Harte will have his charges on red alert as they face Damian McErlain’s Derry, who come into this match boasting a record of 8 successive league victories, which has to be confidence inspiring. A year without an Ulster title is one too many for Mickey Harte but it’s a mighty long time, 21 years, since Derry got their hands on the trophy.

Saturday May 18 relegated Cavan will entertain Monaghan. The sides clashed in an important league relegation battle which saw Malachy O’Rourke lead his Monaghan side to a 0-14 to 1-8 victory. Cavan manager Mickey Graham, like all other managers facing Monaghan, will have to plan to stop Conor McManus impact if his team are to spring a surprise. Monaghan had their name, last on the cup in 2015 but you have to go back to 1997 for Cavan’s last title.

Armagh head to Newry on Sunday May 19 with manager Kieran McGeeney seeking his first Ulster Championship win as a manager. Down manager Paddy Tally had his team building plans disrupted by a crucial one point loss at home to Louth which put paid to his teams promotion hopes. All that will pale into insignificance if Paddy can lead Down to a win over their nearest and dearest rivals Armagh, who according to their manager would swap a win over Down for a place in the Super 8’s. It is 1994 since Down got their name on the Anglo-Celt Cup with Armagh’s last win in 2008.

A repeat of last year’s Ulster Final on Sunday May 26 sees defending champions Donegal take on Fermanagh who will be trying to overcome their comprehensive 2-18 to 0-12 final loss. Fermanagh comfortably survive in Division Two of the league where it looked as if manager Rory Gallagher and his team were more than satisfied with staying put rather than going for promotion to Division One. Gallagher will be hoping that his side can go one step further than last year and land a first Ulster title. Declan Bonner gave youth their fling in a very productive league campaign and will have his eye on a long championship involvement.

Ironically it is rank outsiders Antrim who are last into championship action with manager Lenny Harbison getting time to see his opposition in action as they play the winners of the Preliminary Round Tyrone or Derry on May Saturday 25. It is 1951 since Antrim got their name on the cup.

The latest betting on the 2019 Ulster championship is as follows Tyrone 13/8, Monaghan & Donegal 3/1, Armagh 10/1, Cavan 11/1, Down 16/1, Fermanagh 28/1, Derry 40/1, Antrim 150/1