Clubs all set for county championship throw in .

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

THE Donnelly Vauxhall Tyrone Senior Football Championship takes centre stage this weekend, with four first round ties to be played over three days.

And the stand-out game of the opening round is the clash of Clonoe and Dromore, who meet at Carrickmore on Sunday evening.

One of the leading contenders for the title will fail to make it past the initial hurdle, and with so much at stake, a ferociously competitive battle is assured at Pairc Colmcille.

Clonoe last won the O'Neill Cup in 2013, but it's six years since Dromore's most recent triumph.

Both sides have been gearing themselves towards this game since the draw was made many months ago, and specific strands of their respective tactical plans will make for an intriguing contest.

Clonoe could be boosted by the return of Tyrone attacker Connor McAliskey, who has not played since suffering a knee ligament rupture back in January.

Last season, when Clonoe lost to neighbours Coalisland and Dromore were beaten by eventual champions Killyclogher as both failed to make it to the showpiece occasion.

Both sides have the star quality that could swing it their way at a crucial point, with Tyrone star Declan McClure set to do his utmost to establish a platform around midfield for the O'Rahilly's.

Collie Doris, PJ Lavery and Danny McNulty are others who can keep Damien Cassidy's side on the front foot, but they will come up against a formidable Dromore defence in which Cathal McCarron, Ronan McNabb and Sean O'Neill are major players.

Niall Sludden will be a constant driving force for the St Dympna's, and his influence will have to be curbed if Clonoe are to limit the supply of ball to accomplished finishers Eoin McCusker and Ruairi Sludden.

When the teams met in the league, Clonoe scored a 2-11 to 1-11 win at Gardrum Park, and another close contest is expected between two evenly matched sides as they battle to make it through to a quarter-final against either champions Killyclogher or Pomeroy, who meet at Dunmoyle on Saturday evening.

O'Neill Cup holders Killyclogher face a tricky first defence of their title against a Pomeroy side that won the Ulster IFC title last year.

Pomeroy's trio of county players, the McGeary brothers, Kieran and Hugh Pat, and Frank Burns, will be handed central roles as the Plunketts bid to pull off a shock result.

In their first season back in senior football, they held on to their Division One status, and will go into their championship opener with plenty of confidence.

Ryan Loughran, Brendan Burns, John Loughran, Brendan Cunningham and Sean Quinn will approach the challenge with their customary zeal as they draw on the useful lessons learned during a lengthy county and provincial championship run in 2016.

This is a difficult opener for Dominic Corrigan's men, but the O'Neill Cup holders will go in as favourites to make a winning start and book a quarter-final meeting with either Clonoe or Dromore.

Tiernan McCann is set to miss the game through injury, but their other Tyrone stars, Conall McCann and Mark Bradley, will lead the challenge, along with Danny Gorman, Feargal Meenagh, Emmet McFadden and Nathan Donnelly as they set out to retain their title.

Also on Saturday, Coalisland take on Galbally at Edendork. The Fianna are among the favourites to win the O'Neill Cup this year, and will be expected to get through this initial test.

They were beaten finalists last season, losing out to Killyclogher after a replay, and have tasted championship glory in the recent past, with many survivors from the team that won the title back in 2010.

Attackers Paddy McNeice, Cathaoir Quinn and Brian Toner will take on the responsibility of getting the scores, while Plunkett Kane, Padraig Hampsey, Michael McKernan and Niall Kerr will ensure a steady supply of possession to the front men.

Coalisland have qualified for the Division One semi-finals, while Galbally endured a difficult season, eventually picking up the vital points that helped them avoid relegation to Division Two, so league form also points to a Fianna success.

But the Pearses go into the game with nothing to lose, and could perform with a freedom which could trouble their opponents.

Blaine Nugent, Daniel Kerr, Declan Murphy, Paul Rafferty and Sean Murphy are important figures in their game plan, but everything must go right for them on the day.

Earlier, the action begins on Friday evening, when Trillick and Strabane are given the honour of launching this year's championship, when they meet at Healy Park.

Mattie Donnelly, Richie Donnelly, Rory Brennan and Lee Brennan give Trillick the quality that should see them through, and they look to have the firepower to set up a quarter-final clash with Coalisland or Galbally.

Donnelly Vauxhall Tyrone SFC

Round 1 Friday, 8 September Omagh (8pm) Strabane v Trillick Saturday, 9 September Edendork (2pm) Coalisland v Galbally Dunmoyle (6.15pm) Killyclogher v Pomeroy Sunday, 10 September Carrickmore (6pm) Clonoe v Dromore Friday, 15 September Omagh (8.30pm) Donaghmore v Greencastle Saturday, 16 September Dungannon (2pm) Carrickmore v Edendork Loughmacrory (6.15pm) Omagh v Ardboe


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