Donegal to face Tyrone in Ulster SFC preliminary round

Leo McLoone and Conon Grugan
Leo McLoone and Conan Grugan in action in the 2013 Ulster Championship clash

Ulster champions Donegal have been drawn to face Tyrone in the preliminary round of the 2015 Ulster Senior Football Championship, with the winners playing Armagh in the quarter-finals.

Derry will play Down in the other last eight tie on that side of the draw.

Monaghan will be favourites to repeat their progress to the final on the other side of the draw as they face Cavan in the quarter-finals.

Fermanagh will play Antrim in the other quarter-final.

Tyrone never got the better of Donegal in the Championship during Jim McGuinness's tenure as Donegal boss, but it is his successor who will cross swords with Mickey Harte's men following McGuinness's recent resignation.

There will also be fresh starts for Armagh, Antrim and Down as Kieran McGeeney, Frank Fitzsimons and Jim McCorry respectively take over the reins at the Ulster counties.

Meanwhile in the Leinster SHC, Antrim will be part of the Qualifier group involving Laois, Carlow and Westmeath, with the winners taking on Offaly in the quarter-finals.

As was the case this year, the Ulster Football series has something of a lopsided look with the majority of the likely contenders on one side of the draw.

Tyrone manager Harte acknowledged that his team had been placed "on a very tough side of the draw" but remained philosophical.

"That's the way the cookie crumbles," Harte told BBC Radio Ulster.

"Ulster is the toughest province to win and you have to beat a lot of teams if you want to get there.

"It's a big challenge now because obviously in Ulster, you have four teams in Division 1 for the start [Tyrone, Donegal, Derry and Monaghan] and three of them are in one half of the draw.

"And that's not counting the fact that Armagh have raised the bar for themselves big time this year."

With Donegal having beaten Tyrone in their last three championship meetings, Harte agreed that his team is unlikely to lack for motivation in the preliminary round tie.

"Yes, there is a lot to play for. We certainly would need to up our game [against Donegal] and change the result of such encounters."

Harte's squad has had a major overhaul over the past couple of seasons but while the results were not encouraging this season as they failed to make the League semi-finals and then suffered championship defeats by Monaghan and Armagh, the Red Hands boss remains optimistic that progress can be made.

"We have had a huge turnover of players from back in the times when we were winning even Ulster titles in 2009 and 2010.

"There are maybe 20 new players in the panel of 34 or 35 from then.

"Thankfully there are still people there with plenty of experience, like Sean Cavanagh, leading the line.

"That gives us a great chance to be competitive and I believe we will be."

2015 Ulster Senior Football Championship Draw

Preliminary round

Donegal v Tyrone

First round draw

Armagh v Donegal/Tyrone

Derry v Down

Cavan v Monaghan

Fermanagh v Antrim

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