Cargin begin title defence in Antrim SFC opener

Cargin manager Ronan Devlin speaks to his team ahead of the last of extra time.  Picture Mark Marlow
Cargin manager Ronan Devlin speaks to his team ahead of the last of extra time. Picture Mark Marlow

ANTRIM is the first Ulster county to gets its club championship season up and running, with six games spread across this evening and tomorrow.

As usual, the competition will be played on a group-based structure, with all teams eyeing up those knock-out spots later in the summer.

Current holders Cargin begin their title defence tomorrow with a trip to Belfast to face Rossa. Ronan Devlin’s side have been crowned winners six times in the last eight seasons and will start another campaign as favourites to go all the way.

Rossa, with Antrim goalkeeper Michael Byrne and sharp-shooter Dominic McEnhill to call upon, will offer some resistance.

The same group also throws up a repeat of  the St John’s-Tir na nOg league clash from a few weeks ago, when the Randalstown side secured their top-flight status for another year. They will expect a tougher test in Corrigan Park this evening.

Division One league champions Roger Casement’s, Portglenone are aiming to carry their form into the championship when they meet St Enda’s, Glengormley, who finished at the other end of the table and were relegated to Division Two.

Chris McGlone’s Ahoghill hold home advantage tonight against Lamh Dhearg and they are also aiming to upset the odds to overcome the 2017 champions.

Creggan, winners two years ago, begin their campaign against former Saffron kingpins St Gall’s this evening.

An injury-ravaged season saw Creggan finish fourth in the league, although Gerard McNulty’s men remain one of the favourites for the title.

St Gall’s, who last won the McNamee Cup in 2014, avoided relegation and face a difficult away opener in the only Group 3 game of the weekend.

Beaten finalists in the last two years Aghagallon restart their search for a first-ever county title against St Brigid’s tomorrow.

Backboned by the scoring talents of Ruairi McCann and Adam Loughran, Pete McGrath’s charges remain one of the big-hitters in the county.

St Brigid’s will look to the Finnegans – Joseph and Patrick – along with Jack Dowling and Ronan Boyle as they look to cause an upset.

Elsewhere around Ulster, the Derry SFC is set to begin next weekend, with the first games in the round-robin format taking place on Sunday, August 6.

The competition is made up of two groups of seven, with each team guaranteed six games and the top four in each group heading to the quarter-finals.

Monaghan’s two groups of five teams get going the following weekend, with Ballybay defending.

Donegal also has a two-group format with eight teams in each, and the action begins on Friday, August 18.

Armagh’s SFC gets underway on the same day, and their championship will be made up of four groups of four.