Tyrone and Monaghan meet in Ulster derby at Clones
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Division Two: Monaghan v Tyrone (Sunday, St Tiernach's Park, 2pm)
TYRONE captain Aoibhinn McHugh hopes the Red Hands can continue their winning start to the season but knows they face a tough test away to neighbours Monaghan in Clones tomorrow.
McHugh is well aware of how tough this Division Two league is and how easily and quickly things can turn.
Another three points would certainly go a long way to consolidating their place as a second-tier league team and last week's opening three-point victory over newly-promoted Roscommon was greeted with relief more than anything.
Victory over Wexford in 2020 was their previous league win, not counting the must-win relegation battles in 2021 and 2022 that saved their second-tier status.
“We were happy with the result at the weekend. Division Two is tough this year so getting points early on was definitely important,” said the Aghyaran player.
“I think it was a bit of a nervous performance for the team. It had been a while since we have won a national league game, so we hope to build upon Sunday's performance going forward.”
Manager Sean O'Kane has added a number of new faces to the squad but still retains good experience in Joanne Barrett, Emma Jane Gervin, Niamh Hughes, Slaine McCarroll, Grainne Rafferty, Emma Hegarty and Maria Canavan.
McHugh, who is still only 23, has been part of the senior set-up since 2017 and takes over the captaincy role with Hughes as vice-captain.
“We have a lot of new faces this year with a few girls who made their senior debuts against Roscommon. Unfortunately, there have been some girls from last year who couldn't commit to the squad this year, but I think we still have a nice mixture of experience and fresh faces.”
Securing their Division Two status is the initial aim but alongside that is to finish as high up the table as possible and aiming for wins week after week but the immediate focus is always the next team up and that is Monaghan tomorrow.
“At this point we're taking the league game by game. There's a lot of strong senior teams in the division but we'll focus on ourselves and performing as best we can and see where that takes us.
“We're definitely expecting a tough battle with Monaghan. They have quality players but we're hoping for a good game and that we can build upon last weekend's performance.”
Monaghan had a contrasting weekend last with defeat to Laois in the first round. It's a chance for Kieran Kearns' side to try and bounce straight back but they come up against a Tyrone side boosted by their winning start.
The Farney are a team in transition and ensuring they do not get embroiled in a relegation battle will be their primary aim, while also exposing their newer and more inexperienced players to the senior football standards.
This will be a game Monaghan will feel that they can take something away from and get some points on the board.
The sides played out a controversial 0-10 apiece draw last year in the split league, while in other years Monaghan have enjoyed success over their neighbouring county.
Captain Muireann Atkinson will look to lead the charge against Tyrone alongside Jodie McQuillan in midfield.
Rosemary Courtney, the Garland sisters, Lauren and Amy, Maeve Monaghan, Jennifer Duffy, Chloe McBride and Shauna Coyle are all players will hope to steer their side to victory.
Division One: Donegal v Meath (Saturday, Letterkenny, 1pm)
THIS is a repeat of last year's Division One final in which Donegal come up short.
The sides met again in the All-Ireland SFC semi-final, with the defending champions, Meath, prevailing again in another epic battle. As much as we may be looking forward to this next instalment, it's fair to say to that this game will have an entirely different feel about it.
Donegal are minus their household attackers but it gives their younger players the chance to gain invaluable senior inter-county experience against some of the best teams in the country. Last week manager Maxi Curran handed nine players their inter-county debuts, among them young players like Saskia Boyle, Laoise Ryan, Kate Long, Cait Gillespie, Ciara McGarvey and Katie Dowds impressed. They along with others will be given an opportunity again today.
Both sides lost their opening games. Donegal saw Galway finish strong in the final quarter to win 0-11 to 0-6, while Dublin enjoyed a 1-11 to 0-8 win over the current title-holders.
It's much too early to read into those results and both could hope to have a big say at the top of the standings.
Meath could feel an added pressure, not just as double champions but being an new era under Davy Nelson. They were without stars such as Emma Duggan, Emma Troy, Aoibheann Lally, Vikki Wall and Orlagh Lally but nine of the All-Ireland winning team started against Dublin.
Meath will hope to get some points on the board but they know they will not get anything easy up in Donegal, who will look for another step up in performance and aim to build on what went right against Galway.
Division Two: Roscommon v Armagh (Sunday, Kiltoom, 2pm)
ARMAGH travel to Roscommon in search of another three points to build on their opening win over Cavan.
Roscommon lost to Tyrone and will be keen not to fall to a second successive defeat, but the Orchard county should be too strong for their midlands opposition.
They will, however, take nothing for granted knowing there is a job to done.
Division Two: Tipperary v Cavan (Sunday, Fethard, 2pm)
GAMES between these sides tend to be hard-fought. Expect this one to be no different. They had contrasting experiences last week, with Tipperary coming away with a win over Westmeath, while Cavan lost to Armagh, falling away in the second half after an evenly contested opening 30 minutes.
Division Three: Down v Sligo (Sunday, Páirc Esler, 2pm)
DOWN will hope to bounce back from last weekend's heavy defeat to Kildare with a victory over Sligo tomorrow.
The Mourne county were defeated 3-13 to 0-6, a scoreline not unlike Sligo's against Clare, the Connacht side losing 3-15 to 0-5.
Those scorelines suggest this game could be much more evenly contested and it will be a big three points for the victors, who would put some daylight between themselves and the bottom of the table.
Division Four Group B: Derry v Wicklow (Sunday, Owenbeg, 2pm)
DERRY face a tough test against Wicklow tomorrow but will hope they can show more signs of progress in front of home support.
The Oak Leafs lost to Leitrim in the opening round last weekend, while this is a first outing of the year for Wicklow.
The Leinster side were relegated from Division Three last season and will be among the favourites for league honours.