Dunloy, Ballymena

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Ulster Football League Throws In


Eoghan Rua Coleraine celebrate their 2018 crown. Do they have three-in-a-row in them?

Snow may be barraging the country this evening, but a host of Gaelic footballers across Ulster will be hoping that it clears comfortably by Sunday morning as the size 5s get dusted off and propelled into the air for the start of the Ulster Football League.


Played as a pre-season competition, it allows clubs from across the province a chance to pit themselves against and offers a more competitive option than traditional challenge games.


Reigning Senior champions Eoghan Rua used their successful campaign to lay the foundation for a championship-winning season, while the Intermediate title was clinched by Laragh United of Cavan.


There is significant Antrim and Derry interest in the competition, with the counties providing eleven of the clubs in the Senior section, seven in the Intermediate and three in the Junior.


Senior


Eoghan Rua

27/01 - St Canice's Dungiven (A)

03/02 - St Brigid's Belfast (H)

10/02 - St Patrick's Eglish (A)


The Derry Senior champions are the holders in this competition, and kick things off this Sunday as they travel to Dungiven to face St Canice's in their opening game. The Coleraine men's last outing was a bitter defeat to Scotstown in the Ulster SFC Semi-Final and their experienced panel will again hope to use the competition to launch their 2019 season.


Erin's Own Lavey

27/01 - John Mitchell's Glenullin (H)

03/02 - Eoghan Rua Kilcoo (H)

10/02 - Casement's Portglenone (A)


Runners-up to Eoghan Rua in the 2018 Derry SFC, Erin's Own haven't far to travel at all in their opening three games. Their developing squad will open by hosting fellow Derry men Glenullin, before welcoming Kilcoo to Lavey. They will then finish their opening salvo with a short trek across the Bann to cross-county neighbours Portglenone.


St Oliver Plunkett's Greenlough

27/01 - St Brigid's Belfast (A)

03/02 - St Patrick's Eglish (H)

10/02 - St Colm's Ballinascreen (H)


Having struggled for much of 2018, Greenlough will be keen to hit the ground running in 2019. Their first task is an away game in Belfast against a resurgent St Brigid's Belfast, who were promoted to Antrim's Division 1 last season. Eglish and fellow county men Ballinascreen make up their last two games.


St Canice's Dungiven

27/01 - Eoghan Rua Coleraine (H)

03/02 - St Mary's Killyclogher (A)

10/02 - Wolfe Tones Bellaghy (A)


A tough opening encounter for St Canice's sees them welcome Derry champions Eoghan Rua to Dungiven for what will be their only home game of the opening three. They then face a trip to 2016 Tyrone champions Killyclogher before finishing at Páirc Sheán de Brún in Bellaghy.


St Colm's Ballinascreen

27/01 - St Dympna's Dromore (H)

03/02 - O'Rahilly's Latton (A)

10/02 - St Oliver Plunkett's Greenlough (A)


After their opening game against St Dympna's Dromore, whose U21s will be in action at the Creggan Tournament this coming weekend, Screen will face a trip to Monaghan to face Latton, before finishing their opening salvo with the short journey to Greenlough.


Wolfe Tones Bellaghy

27/01 - Eoghan Rua Kilcoo (A)

03/02 - Roger Casement's Portglenone (A)

10/02 - St Canice's Dungiven (H)


A battle against local cross-county rivals Portglenone is the highlight of the Wolfe Tones' opening games, but they will have the visit of Down's Kilcoo to deal with first. Bellaghy will no doubt look to bring through some of their Ulster-winning Minor talent and will finish their opening set with a home game against Dungiven.


Ballinderry Shamrocks

27/01 - St Mary's Killyclogher (H)

03/02 - John Mitchell's Claudy (A)

10/02 - St Dympna's Dromore (A)


Two away games for the Shamrocks but they will kick off their campaign at home to St Mary's Killyclogher. Due to be without midfield force Ryan Bell, the members of the triumphant U21 side from 2018 will surely be to the fore in the competition, as they finish with visits to Claudy and Dromore.


John Mitchell's Glenullin

27/01 - Erin's Own Lavey (A)

03/02 - St Dympna's Dromore (A)

10/02 - O'Rahilly's Latton (H)


Glenullin will look to put a very tough 2018 behind them as they embark on this season's competitions. Their reliance on Eoin Bradley cost them last year and they will need to find scores from elsewhere as they open with a tough assignment in Lavey, visiting Dromore before ending their opening set at home to Latton.


St Brigid's Belfast

27/01 - St Oliver Plunkett's (H)

03/02 - Eoghan Rua Coleraine (A)

10/02 - Eoghan Rua Kilcoo (H)


Having secured promotion to Antrim's Division 1 in 2018 and winning the Antrim U21 Championship, the Biddies will be confident of making an impression in 2019. Their successful U21 side's involvement in the Creggan Tournament may curtail some of their involvement in this league, but with a home game first they'll be hopeful of starting well against Greenlough, before travelling north to Coleraine and welcoming Kilcoo to Musgrave Park.


Roger Casement's Portglenone

27/01 - John Mitchell's Claudy (A)

03/02 - Wolfe Tones Bellaghy (H)

10/02 - Erin's Own Lavey (H)


Hosting both Lavey and Bellaghy, their close cross-Bann rivals, Portglenone will be hopeful of getting in two tough, competitive games against two of Derry's quickly developing teams. They also face Derry opposition in their first game, travelling to face Mitchell's in Claudy this weekend.


John Mitchell's Claudy

27/01 - Roger Casement's Portglenone (H)

03/02 - Ballinderry Shamrocks (H)

10/02 - St Mary's Killyclogher (A)


Finishing bottom of Derry's Division 1 last season, Claudy will hope for a more positive start to 2019 and face Antrim opposition in their opening game at home, before hosting Ballinderry in the second game. Their final match in the opening series sees a trip to Tyrone to face Killyclogher in a testing encounter.


Intermediate


St Mary's Rasharkin

27/01 - Na Piarsaigh Doire Trasna (A)

03/02 - Strabane Sigerson's (H)

10/02 - Naomh Colmcille (H)


The South West Antrim side had a disappointing 2018 and will be hoping the Ulster League can help them get off to a positive start this season. They face a trip to Derry to face Doire Trasna to kick them off, before hosting Tyrone side Strabane Sigerson's and Naomh Colmcille of Donegal.


Con Magee's Glenravel

27/01 - O'Brien's Foreglen (A)

03/02 - St Patrick's Gortin (H)

10/02 - Na Cúnna Limavady (H)


Two home games in the group stage for the Antrim JFC and Division 3 champions from 2018. The Glenravel men commence with a journey to Derry Div 2 runners-up Foreglen, who will prove a formidable introduction, before hosting both St Patrick's Gortin and Derry JFC champions Limavady.


Na Cúnna Limavady

27/01 - St Patrick's Gortin (A)

03/02 - O'Brien's Foreglen (H)

10/02 - Con Magee's Glenravel (A)


Last year's Derry JFC and Division 3 champions begin their campaign without the influential Callum Brown, gone to pursue his Australian Rules career after a hugely successful season in the Wolfhounds' jersey. They begin with a trip to Gortin, before hosting Foreglen in Limavady and travelling to Glenravel for a clash of the Junior champions from Antrim and Derry. Interestingly, both lost out in Ulster to the same opponents, Red Hugh's of Donegal.


O'Brien's Foreglen

27/01 - Con Magee's Glenravel (H)

03/02 - Na Cúnna Limavady (A)

10/02 - St Patrick's Gortin (A)


Two away trips for Foreglen, who will have been frustrated by 2018, having just lost out on the Division 2 title to fierce rivals Banagher, and suffering championship defeat in a replay to the same opposition. They host Con Magee's in their first game before travelling to face Limavady and Gortin at the group stage.


Na Piarsaigh Doire Trasna

27/01 - St Mary's Rasharkin (H)

03/02 - Naomh Colmcille (A)

10/02 - Strabane Sigerson's (A)


Finishing second from bottom in Derry's Division 2 last season, Doire Trasna will be hoping to bounce back with an improved 2018. They open by hosting Rasharkin in Derry, before trips to Donegal and Tyrone to clash with Naomh Colmcille and Strabane Sigerson's respectively.


Tír na nÓg Randalstown

27/01 - St Malachy's Castledawson (A)

03/02 - Tír na nÓg (Armagh) (H)

10/02 - St Malachy's Moortown (H)


The Whitehill men lost out on promotion by the narrowest of margins in Antrim's Division 2 last season and begin 2019 with a short trip to St Malachy's Castledawson, who were in contention for their own Division 2 title in Derry until the last few rounds. They will then host Armagh's Tír na nÓg and St Malachy's of Moortown in their final two games.


St Malachy's Castledawson

27/01 - Tír na nÓg Randalstown (H)

03/02 - St Malachy's Moortown (A)

10/02 - Tír na nÓg (Armagh) (A)


The south Derry men kick off 2019 at home to cross-county neighbours Tír na nÓg Randalstown, where they will face a very similar opponent close to the top of their county's second tier. An away trip to fellow St Malachy's side Moortown then beckons before a further trip to Armagh to face Tír na nÓg ends the group stage.


Junior


Henry Joy McCracken's Moneymore

27/01 - Glenelly (A)

03/02 - Na Piarsaigh Fionntamhnach (H)

10/02 - Derrynoose (A)


The Derry JFC runners-up from 2018 begin their season with a trip to neighbouring Tyrone to face Glenelly, before welcoming opposition from the same county in Fintona Pearse's, before ending their group stage games with a trip to Derrynoose of Armagh.


Na Piarsaigh (Aontroim)

27/01 - Aghaderg (A)

03/02 - Brockagh Emmett's (H)

10/02 - St Aidan's Magilligan (A)


Two away trips for Na Piarsaigh as their 2019 season gets underway in Co. Down against Aghaderg. They then welcome Tyrone's Brockagh Emmett's to Belfast before making the journey to north Derry to face St Aidan's of Magilligan.


St Aidan's Magilligan

27/01 - Brockagh Emmett's (A)

03/02 - Aghaderg (H)

10/02 - Na Piarsaigh (Aontroim) (H)


A brace of home games for Derry's St Aidan's Magilligan who look to follow up their solid performance in the Derry league last season with a successful Ulster League campaign. They kick off at home to Brockagh Emmett's before welcoming both Aghaderg and Antrim's Na Piarsaigh to Magilligan.


The pre-season slog, while not quite over, will become lightly seasoned with the lure of leather on a fresh January morning amid the lingering fog and freezing temperatures.


And leggings. Those bloody leggings.


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