Conor McCarthy (Monaghan) v Caolan Mooney (Down)
NO shortage of speed along the line if these two pull up alongside each other.
Having struggled for consistency as a forward force, the Scotstown man played in a deeper role for much of Monaghan’s League campaign, and has warmed to the task.
Started on Sean Bugler in the Farney’s relegation decider against Dublin four weeks ago, before moving onto Niall Scully, and impressed with a dogged display. If allowed room to roam, McCarthy can cause serious damage at the other end too.
That is why Down need Mooney to step up more than ever, especially in Liam Kerr’s absence. If he finds form early, the Mournemen can feed off his confidence, while Mooney’s blistering breaks from deep offer the most likely source of goalscoring opportunities on a day when Down will need everything to go their way.
IT will be interesting to see if Monaghan turn the heat on Down from the get-go. Fresh from the disappointment of relegation to Division Three - the Tailteann Cup trapdoor looming large – confidence is not exactly flying, and the Farneymen surely smell blood.
If so, Seamus McEnaney could opt for the pace and directness of Gary Mohan, pushing up alongside Conor McManus and Jack McCarron.
Darren Hughes naturally drops back into a sweeping position but Monaghan will likely go for a wall of big men across the middle to try and squeeze Down’s kick-outs. Given the struggles the Mournemen have had in this area over recent years, this is an obvious concern.
James McCartan has never been one for all-out defence but, in trying circumstances, it’s difficult to see what other option he has. Since the end of the League the Down boss has lost full-back Finn McElroy and playmaker Liam Kerr. That will almost certainly see Ryan McEvoy – whose height and athleticism has been used mostly at wing-forward under McCartan - drop into the full-back line, where he has been so commanding for All-Ireland champions Kilcoo.
Darren O’Hagan is expected to play as a sweeper, and Conor Poland could drop in alongside him at times, with Niall McParland dropping back from a midfield three to close the space. Kerr is a big miss, but the lively Cory Quinn is an able deputy, with Barry O’Hagan likely to start out on the left wing rather than inside.
P Fegan R McEvoy
J McCarron C McManus
G Collins C Poland D Guinness
G Mohan M Bannigan R McAnespie
N McParland A Doherty O Murdock
K Hughes A Woods N Kearns
C Mooney C Quinn B O’Hagan
C McCarthy D Ward K Duffy
A Gilmore P Havern
R Wylie C Boyle
Fergal Kelly (Longford)
WHERE TO WATCH
Sky Sports Arena, coverage begins at 4pm