Queen's manager Conor Deegan expects a hard-hitting Sigerson Cup clash with UU

Tyrone's Luke Donnelly (right), who is an attacking threat for Queen's University.
Tyrone's Luke Donnelly (right), who is an attacking threat for Queen's University. Tyrone's Luke Donnelly (right), who is an attacking threat for Queen's University.

Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup round one: Queen's University, Belfast v Ulster University (tonight, 7pm, The Dub Arena – live on HE GAA YouTube channel)

HITTING hard – physically, on the pitch tonight and then emotionally, afterwards. Those are the predictions of Queen's manager Conor Deegan ahead of the mouth-watering Sigerson Cup clash with arch-rivals Ulster University, the artists formerly known as Jordanstown.

The derby element is greater than ever since the latter's move into Belfast from Jordanstown, and the former Down All-Ireland winner has no doubt that this will be an intense encounter.

It isn't knockout, with a second chance for both against either ATU Donegal or DCU DE next week, but Deegan insists that the 'back door' element won't lessen the desire to win of either side:

"No, no, not on Tuesday night – that ship sailed the moment that draw came out. The focus is there. Whoever wins will be delighted and whoever loses, I would say, it'll hit hard.

"You get another go at it, so you've got to get back on the bicycle and have another go at it. But it'll hurt. It's bragging rights. It's wonderful.

"Yes, we want to win, absolutely. Jesus, do we want to win! Both sides, both sets of players will be up for it from the start. They'll both be chomping at the bit… Everybody will be trying their best."

Deegan mocks his own academic ability, saying "If I'd been there I'd have been caretaker!", but as the sort of man who 'kept a tidy square' when playing full-back, it's abundantly clear that he'd have relished playing in such a Sigerson encounter:

"There'll be a lot of passion, I'd imagine a fair bit of 'blood and thunder' going along – but at the end we'll shake hands and move on.

"It's almost a throwback, it's not this massive professionalism that is elsewhere. We'll lick our wounds or we'll celebrate and we'll go again.

"Having a good referee in, Sean Hurson, will add to that massively. He'll understand it, he'll get it. Maybe not 'let go' in a bad way but it'll be a manly environment, which is great."

Deegan knows his squad is ready to give their utmost in 'The BelClasico': "We were out at a training session last week, the players were standing in a group, arms linked, chatting away – we put huge store on the players taking ownership – and we were standing back from it.

"That's the uniqueness that college football brings: boys from the same clubs, same counties, playing against each other. We have a disparate group of lads but they all buy into it."

The demands of inter-county football (and managers) may intervene, with three McKenna Cup matches tomorrow night, including Derry-Tyrone, but there's the potential for a few intra-club clashes, not just showdowns between players from the same county.

The Queen's panel includes the Burren trio of Peter Fegan, Ardan McAvoy, and Patrick McCarthy, while UU have four from there – Ryan Cunningham, Danny and Ryan Magill, and Odhran Murdock. Also from Down are Clonduff duo Padraig Clancy (QUB) and Tom Close (UU).

From Tyrone there's Dungannon Clarke's man Oran Mallon at Queen's, who might face clubmates Conall Devlin and Ryan Jones; Carrickmore's Brian Conway, Rory Donnelly, and Lorcan McBride are all at QUB, Ruairi Slane at UU. Trillick representatives include Daniel Donnelly for the Malone Road men and Liam Gray for their now city rivals, after UU's move into Belfast.

Derry goalkeeper Odhran Lynch might find himself looking out at Magherafelt clubmate Dan Higgins. All the way from Donegal are St Eunan's, Letterkenny men Eóin McGeehin (QUB) and Ciaran Moore (UU).

The only Ulster county not represented is Cavan, while Queen's have been fielding Padraig Purcell of All-Ireland Club SFC Finalists Kilmacud Croke's of Dublin.

Deegan acknowledges that "we don't have the same stand-out names that a lot of the big colleges will be able to bring. Jordanstown have probably moved forward in that regard. But Queen's have a tremendous track record and history…more than Jordanstown anyway. We just get on with it.

"We're probably able to train and have our numbers and I have the help of John McAteer and Kevin Murray, while thew support mechanisms around the club are superb – Mike McGurn, Hugh Campbell, Gavan [Duffy], who's just a Trojan, and Karl Oakes with an overview of all sports.

"We have so many positives, they far outweigh the negatives."

Queen's no longer have Armagh attacker Conor Turbitt, who was a huge factor last year, "superb for us", says Deegan, but the wheel turns:

"Everybody's very different – how do you replace any player? Everybody brings their own strengths and weaknesses. It's about trying to adapt, play a style that suits the players we have.

"Young Luke Donnelly is doing very well for us, we're very pleased with him. We have the McWilliamses as well, potentially; Lorcan is more with us, Oisin is with the Derry squad, we haven't seen as much of him as we would like – but all colleges are in the same both with regard to that.

"We have a good squad of players, good lads who have bought into it and worked hard. We'll utilise them as best we can."

QUB panel:

Patrick McCarthy, St Mary's, Burren (Down)

Ardan McAvoy St Mary's, Burren (Down)

Diarmuid Baker, Steelstown Brian Ogs (Derry)

Billy Campbell, Ballyholland (Down)

Patrick Finnegan, St Brigid's, Belfast (Antrim)

Brian Cassidy, St Trea's Ballymaguigan (Derry)

Luke Donnelly, Eglish (Tyrone)

Oran Mallon, Dungannon Clarke's (Tyrone)

Liam Downey, O'Brien's, Foreglen (Derry)

Conal Logan, Ballinascreen (Derry)

John McGovern, Ballyholland (Down)

Padraig Clancy, Clonduff (Down)

Zak Kyle, Brookeborough Heber Macmahon's (Fermanagh)

Matthew Downey, Erins Own Lavey (Derry)

Peter McGrane, Ballyhagen Davitt's (Armagh)

Dan Higgins, O'Donovan Rossa, Magherafelt (Derry)

Tiarnan Bogue, Tempo Maguire's (Fermanagh)

Conor McCrystal, Monaghan Harps (Monaghan)

Gavin McPhillips, Scotstown (Monaghan)

Fionn Nagle, St Enda's, Glengormley (Antrim)

Eóin McGeehin, St Eunan's, Letterkenny (Donegal)

Brian Conway, Carrickmore (Tyrone)

Fintan Canavan, Bryansford (Down)

James O'Hara, Keady Micheal Dwyer's (Armagh)

Lorcán McBride, An Charraig Mhór, Naomh Colmcille (Tyrone)

Rory Donnelly, Carrickmore (Tyrone)

Callum O'Hare, Killeavy St Moninna's (Armagh)

Peter Fegan, St Mary's, Burren (Down)

Daniel Donnelly, Trillick St Macartan's (Tyrone)

Padraig Purcell, Kilmacud Croke's (Dublin)

Tomás McCormack, Annaghmore Pearse's (Armagh)

Matthew Murnaghan, Killyclogher St Mary's (Tyrone)

Michael Meehan, Scotstown (Monaghan)

Sean McCarthy, Clann Eireann (Armagh)

Conor McGovern, Belnaleck Art McMurrough's (Fermanagh).