Farney must be on guard to avoid Antrim sting – Hughes
A FEW more big shocks will rock the championship this summer, according to three-time All Star Eugene 'Nudie' Hughes, but he believes his native Monaghan will not be the victims of one at Casement Park on Sunday.
The Farney Army may have beaten Antrim (1-12 to 1-9) last summer and hammered them (3-16 to 0-13) in the final round of the league this year, but their recent road trip history has created some trepidation locally.
The losses to eventual Ulster champions Fermanagh in Enniskillen in 2008 and Derry at Celtic Park a year later remind Monaghan that they can be vulnerable if they are complacent.
With Sunday's winner playing either Cavan and Fermanagh on the weaker side of Ulster's lop-sided draw, there is a danger of them counting their chickens again this summer.
But Hughes, corner-forward star of the Monaghan team that did a league and Ulster double in 1985, feels there have been enough tremors already this summer to put Malachy O'Rourke's side on their guard.
"It's a good thing that they have seen some of the big surprises already, especially Cavan beating Armagh," he said.
"Monaghan have had some trouble in the past getting out of Casement. Whenever Antrim appear to be struggling it has only galvanised them. But they are lacking some quality finishers at the moment."
That is not a problem for Monaghan, who have some really classy forwards in Conor McManus, Kieran Hughes, Eoin Duffy and Paul Finlay and scored 2-13 from play when beating Meath to win the Division 3 final.
Few counties could afford to hold Tommy Freeman in reserve, as O'Rourke has opted to do on Sunday, but Hughes has warned that their forwards can only showcase those talents if they get the proper service.
"Monaghan have plenty of talent up front but they have to get the right supply," he stressed. "They will have to win plenty of clean ball out the field and get it in to the forwards quickly."
One fly in their ointment could be Sean Kelly, the former All-Ireland club winner with St Gall's who will be lining out in the Antrim defence for the first time in almost three years. He retired from inter-county football in 2010, but, after their league ended in relegation, manager Frank Dawson coaxed him back and he starts at wing-back.
Mark Sweeney has rejoined Antrim's panel since the sides met in the final round of the league, with Andy McClean and Patrick McBride also coming into defence.
The only change that Monaghan have made since winning the league final is Dessie Mone replacing Drew Wylie (the Ballybay player who was allegedly verbally abused in a recent club game). O'Rourke gives championship debuts to 'keeper Rory Beggan and full-back Fintan Kelly.
Monaghan (SF v Antrim) – R Beggan; K Duffy, F Kelly, C Walshe; D Mone, N McAdam, D Hughes; O Lennon, D Clerkin; P Finlay, D Malone, O Duffy; C McGuinness, K Hughes, C McManus.
Antrim (SF) – C Kerr; K O'Boyle, R Johnston, A McClean; S Kelly, J Crozier, P McBride; S McVeigh, M Johnston; A Healy, P Cunningham, M Sweeney; M Pollock, K Niblock, B Herron.
KERRY (SH v Down) – B Rochford; R Horgan, L Boyle, P Costello; D O'Connell, T Murnane, D Dineen; J Griffin, D Collins; B O'Leary, W O'Dywer, C Harty; P Boyle, A Boyle, S Nolan.
DUBLIN (SH v Wexford) – G Maguire; N Corcoran, P Kelly, P Schutte; M Carton, L Rushe, S Durkin; J McCaffrey, J Boland; C McCormack, R O'Dwyer, D Sutcliffe; D O'Callaghan, C Keaney, D Treacy.