All the permutations as Ulster MFC groups reach final round

Derry v Armagh is a case of winner takes all, while Donegal could finish anywhere from first to fourth in Group A.

Donegal ace Conor Mc Cahill being hounded by Monaghan's Pauric Carville (left) and Tiernan Mc Geough of Castleblayney Faughs at St Paul's Belfast. Picture: Seamus Loughran (seamus loughran)
Group A
Round five
Down v Fermanagh (Páirc Esler, 12pm)
Donegal v Monaghan (Ballyshannon, 12pm)
Group B
Round three
Derry v Armagh (Owenbeg, 12pm)
Cavan v Antrim (Kingspan Breffni Park, 12pm)

REIGNING Ulster and All-Ireland champions Derry will face a real test of their mettle as Armagh make the journey up to Owenbeg.

Group B is finely poised, with both sides having seen off Cavan in tight affairs. Derry currently sit top of the standings in their four-team group - owing to their heavy 2-24 1-3 win over The Saffrons a fortnight ago.

There appears to be little separating the sides, with The Orchard County matching Damian McErlain’s charges in the defensive stakes. Both outfits are averaging the concession of exactly seven scores a match.

Jack Loughran and Daithí O’Callaghan have forged a strong centrefield partnership for Armagh, but the form of James Sargent could well see Derry emerge as group winners. The losers are still guaranteed a home quarter-final.

James Sargent of St Mary's, Magherafelt in action against Charlie Gannon and Finn Buckley of St Patrick's, Cavan Picture: Oliver McVeigh

In the group’s other game Cavan will be expected to get the job done at home to winless Antrim. Joshua Sheehu of Cavan Gaels is a name to keep an eye out for, with a draw enough for his team to claim the best-case scenario of an away quarter-final.

Who that will be against is debatable in a hugely competitive Group A. Tyrone had a comfortable home win over Monaghan the last day out, leaving them sitting pretty on top with all four games played.

The clash between Donegal and Monaghan could well change that, with two points enough for Donegal to join them on six points and claim an automatic semi-final due to a 2-12 1-8 win over Tyrone in Round Two.

The Tír Chonaill men have fate in their own hands, and Dermot Malone’s choice of man-marker for the elusive Conor McCahill could prove crucial.

Fourmasters Celebrate.jpg
Four Masters U17 squad that claimed the title at the St Paul's tournament in Belfast on New Year's Day. (seamus loughran)

But Donegal could also find themselves knocked out in the scenario that they lose to Malone’s side and Down beat Fermanagh as is anticipated (The Erne County are already eliminated having lost all three games to date).

Unlike their hosts, The Farney will be safe in the knowledge they cannot be knocked out, with a draw securing progression and even a defeat seeing them edge Down on head-to-head should The Mournemen pick up two points in Páirc Esler.

All matches in both Group A and Group B throw in at 12pm on Saturday.