Monaghan missing three key players

Three of Monaghan's most influential players will be missing from their starting line-up when they play Antrim in Clones on Sunday (throw-in 3.30pm).

Three of Monaghan's most influential players will be missing from their starting line-up when they play Antrim in Clones on Sunday (throw-in 3.30pm).

A serious thigh injury has sidelined their captain Darren Hughes, while sharpshooting forward Tommy Freeman has a hamstring problem and midfielder Eoin Lennon is close to returning from a partial dislocation of an ankle.

Experienced full-forward and free-taker Paul Finlay will captain the Farney men for the Ulster SFC opener, with wing back Karl O'Connell and wing forward Matthew McKenna making their first Championship starts.

Manager Eamonn McEneaney has paired Dick Clerkin and Pete Dooney together in midfield, and defenders Vinny Corey and Dessie Mone and corner forward Conor McManus have all recovered from injury to start.

"We would feel that we've not had the greatest luck over the last 12 months in terms of injuries. We haven't had our full team on the pitch at any one stage," McEneaney told the Irish News.

"This Sunday is about who wants it most. The boys have shown a great appetite since the National League. I couldn't compliment them enough on their attitude.

"They have really knuckled down and worked hard. I honestly believe that we are better now than we were in the National League and we have the opportunity to show than on Sunday."

Meanwhile, skipper Aodhan Gallagher has been passed fit to lead Antrim in their first Championship meeting with Monaghan for 22 years.

The St. Gall's clubman put rumours of a wrist injury to bed by proving his fitness to Saffrons boss Liam Bradley.

Gallagher will pair up with Michael McCann at centre-field, with Roger Casements clubman Mark McAleese making his Championship debut on the left wing.

Substitutes Patrick McBride, Ryan Murray and Patrick and Owen Gallagher could also make their SFC bows off the bench.

MONAGHAN (SFC v Antrim): Mark Keogh; Donal Morgan, Vinny Corey, Colin Walshe; Karl O'Connell, Dessie Mone, Kieran Duffy; Pete Dooney, Dick Clerkin; Matthew McKenna, Stephen Gollogly, James Turley; Christopher McGuinness, Paul Finlay (capt), Conor McManus.

ANTRIM: Chris Kerr; Anto Healey, Ricky Johnston, Kevin O'Boyle; Tony Scullion, Justin Crozier, James Loughrey; Michael McCann, Aodhan Gallagher (capt); Conor Murray, Mark Sweeney, Mark McAleese; Paddy Cunningham, Michael Magill, Tomas McCann.

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