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Ranking the Ulster counties’ championship prospects

With focus on the Ulster Championship this weekend, we rank the remaining counties based on their summer prospects

Derry Ulster

The Ulster Senior Football Championship takes centre stage this weekend, with Derry facing Fermanagh on Saturday evening, and Monaghan taking on Tyrone on Sunday afternoon.

Last weekend, Armagh cleared the first hurdle against Antrim.

With eight teams now remaining, how are they shaping up as the race for the Anglo-Celt Cup intensifies?

1. Tyrone

The Red Hands gathered momentum as the Allianz Football League concluded, winning their last three games. They took maximum points in their games against Ulster opposition, while also scoring a valuable win over Kerry.

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Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan have much to do if this team are to hit the heights they reached in 2021, but there were signs throughout March that the group is clicking once again.

2. Derry

A Division 2 final defeat to Dublin exposed some potential cracks in this Derry team, and Rory Gallagher will be hoping that it was just one bad day at the office.

Nonetheless, it was a satisfactory springtime for the Oak Leaf County. Their narrow yet capable squad showed across the campaign that 2022 was no flash in the pan.

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If their protagonists remain fit all summer, they could go deep once again.

3. Armagh

Relegation on the final day of the league was undoubtedly disappointing, but this is still a team who will be competing for silverware this summer.

Kieran McGeeney’s side came agonisingly close to defeating All-Ireland finalists Galway last season, and they will feel that they can take the next step.

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The fitness of Rian O’Neill will be key for this team’s aspirations.

4. Monaghan

The Farney County pulled off another great escape in Division 1, as focus now turns to championship.

Given their Allianz League prowess in recent years, Monaghan have punched below their weight in the championship in each of the past four seasons.

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With some of the stalwarts in the team in the latter stages of their careers, they will be looking to make a serious push this summer.

5. Cavan

Unlike Donegal who are ranked lower in this list, the Breffni County come into the summer with real momentum off the back of their league campaign.

They will fancy their chances of upsetting Armagh at home in the quarter-final.

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Mickey Graham’s side could end up competing in the Tailteann Cup this summer, but they will have their eyes on an Ulster final spot.

6. Donegal

With an utterly forgettable league campaign now in the rearview mirror, Donegal will be hoping to turn things around in the championship.

Following relegation from Division 1 and the departure of manager Paddy Carr, Tír Chonaill are at a low ebb. A 12-point loss to Roscommon in the final round compounded their woes.

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Amidst off-field issues impacting Donegal GAA, they badly need some on-field inspiration. They will be hoping that an Ulster quarter-final date with Down can prove to be a springboard.

7. Fermanagh

Not many fancy Division 3 finalists Fermanagh to put it up to Derry. But having asked questions of Tyrone 12 months ago, they will feel they have a chance of troubling the reigning provincial champions.

A six-point loss to Cavan in the third tier final halted momentum, but they could have a long summer in the Tailteann Cup, should they fall to the Oak Leaf County.

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8. Down

The Mourne County made a bright start to life under Conor Laverty, but promotion in Division 3 ultimately eluded them.

Nonetheless, the county’s flagship team seem to have turned a corner. A tumultuous 2022 is over, and they will feel they are meeting Donegal at the right time.

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