Football League: Tyrone hands debuts to Rafferty and Kennedy for Kerry opener

Liam Rafferty is about to challenge Derry's Enda Lynn in the Dr McKenna Cup game last month
Liam Rafferty (left) made his debut for Tyrone during the recent Dr McKenna Cup
Allianz Football League
Dates: Saturday and Sunday, 26 & 27 January
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC sport website and BBC Radio Ulster MW, Sat from 19:00 GMT and Sun 13:45

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has handed Football League debuts to Liam Rafferty and Brian Kennedy for Sunday's Division One opener against Kerry in Killarney.

Galbally's Rafferty is named at full-back with Derrylaughan's Kennedy in midfield after both featured in the recent Dr McKenna Cup.

Darren McCurry is selected in an attack which also includes Peter Harte, Mattie Donnelly and Niall Sludden.

All-Stars Padraig Hampsey and Colm Cavanagh are both unavailable.

Hampsey has a groin injury with Moy's Cavanagh having not yet returned to the panel after being rested for the McKenna Cup campaign.

McCurry impressed during the pre-season competition as he made his return to the squad after opting out during last year's Football League.

The Edendork man produced a man-of-the-match performance as he hit 0-9 in last weekend's 0-16 to 0-14 McKenna Cup Final win over Armagh.

New Kerry boss Peter Keane is missing David Clifford and David Moran plus his Dr Crokes contingent - in addition to the retired Kieran Donaghy.

Vinny Corey's goal helped Monaghan surprise Dublin at Croke Park last March
Monaghan were the only team to beat Dublin in league and championship in 2018

Monaghan face champions Dubs at Clones

While the Killarney game has the makings of a thrilling contest, game of the weekend in Division One is probably Sunday's contest between Monaghan and the reigning league and All-Ireland champions Dublin at Clones.

Dublin head into 2019 looking for an unprecedented fifth straight All-Ireland title but Monaghan are the last team to have defeated them in competitive action after winning an admittedly dead rubber in the concluding round of last year's league.

Monaghan All-Star Conor McManus insists that the gap to the Dubs is "not insurmountable" as the Farney men prepare for another season under Malachy O'Rourke.

McManus was not included in the Monaghan starting line-up announced on Saturday but it will not be a surprise to see that changed before the throw-in.

Jim Gavin has named nine of Dublin's All-Ireland Final line-up from last September in his team - including the 2018 player of the year Brian Fenton, who was reported earlier this week to be set to miss the game.

Ciaran Kilkenny is the only member of the All-Ireland winning attack who missed out as Paul Mannion is passed fit.

Cavan, now managed by Mickey Graham following Mattie McGleenan's departure, start their Division One campaign with Sunday's away game against last year's beaten league finalists Galway.

Graham has league debuts to Crosserlough duo Conor Rehill and Piere Smith as Gearoid McKiernan and Caoimhin O'Reilly are ruled out by injury.

Big Ulster interest in Division Two

While Down have dropped to Division Three this season, there will still be a big Ulster interest in Division Two with provincial champions Donegal, Armagh and Fermanagh all involved.

An opener in Ennis against Clare is not the kind of glamour game Donegal have been accustomed, but Declan Bonner will not be underestimating a Banner side that drew with Cavan on the opening weekend in Division Two last year.

After an encouraging McKenna Cup campaign, Armagh face a difficulty looking opener in Newbridge against Kildare while Fermanagh will hope to continue Cork football's downward trajectory by securing a home win over the Rebels at Enniskillen.

Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney has named an unchanged team from the McKenna Cup decider with injury doubts Brendan Donaghy and Jamie Clarke both passed fit and full-back Aaron McKay also included despite his red card in last weekend's game.

Down, under new manager Paddy Tally, are the lone Ulster team in Division Three and they are likely to have to hit the ground running to account for other fancied promotion contenders Laois in Saturday's opener at Pairc Esler.

Tally is without suspended trio Kevin McKernan, Ryan Johnston and Darren O'Hagan while Connaire Harrison and Caolan Mooney also don't start as they are not fully fit.

Laois had an encouraging summer as they reached the final 12 of the Football Championship before losing to Monaghan and manager John Sugrue selects eight of the players who started against the Farney men.

Sugrue hands league debuts to Adam Campion and Sean Byrne with experienced trio Colm Begley, Donie Kingston and Ross Munnelly left out of the starting line-up.

Antrim's Jack Dowling attempts to outwit Derry's Chrissy McKaigue in the Dr McKenna Cup in 2016
Derry travel to Belfast to face Antrim at Corrigan Park

Derry face Antrim in Division Four derby

Arguably the most intriguing game of the weekend from an Ulster point of view is Sunday's Division Four derby between Antrim and Derry at Corrigan Park.

After their dismal 2017 campaign which included an almost unthinkable relegation to the bottom division, the Oak Leafers showed distinct signs of progress in the McKenna Cup as they reached the semi-finals before giving eventual winners Tyrone a bit of a scare.

Antrim's McKenna Cup form was not particularly encouraging but the Saffrons will surely be keen to pull out a big performance and shock a Derry team that all the pundits are tipping to return straight back to Division Three.

Tyrone (v Kerry): N Morgan; L Rafferty, R McNamee, HP McGeary; T McCann, R Brennan, M McKernan; B Kennedy, D McClure; M Donnelly, P Harte, N Sludden; D McCurry, D Mulgrew, C McShane.

Kerry: S Ryan; P Crowley, J Sherwood, B O Beaglaioch; T Morley, P Murphy, T O'Sullivan; J Barry, A Spillane; J Lyne, S O'Shea, S O'Brien; M Geaney, P Geaney, J O'Donoghue.

Monaghan (v Dublin): R Beggan; K Duffy, C Boyle, R Wylie; K O'Connell, B Kerry, C Walshe; D Hughes, F Kelly; R McAnespie, D Malone, S Carey; D Garland, J McCarron, M Bannigan.

Dublin: E Comerford; E Lowndes, M Fitzsimons, C Mullally; E Murcan, J Cooper, J Small; B Fenton, M D Macauley; B Howard, C Costello, N Scully; P Mannion, D Rock, C O'Callaghan.

Cavan (v Galway): R Galligan; J McLoughlin, P Faulkner, C Moynagh; N Murray, C Brady, C Rehill; M Argue, K Clarke; P Smith, D McVeety, M Reilly; J Brady, T Galligan, C Madden.

Cork (v Fermanagh): M White; K O'Donovan, K Flahive, C Dennehy; J Loughrey, T Clancy, M Taylor; I Maguire, R O'Toole; T Clancy, E McSweeney, R Deane; D Gore, B Hurley, L Connolly.

Armagh (v Kildare): B Hughes; C Mackin, A McKay, J Morgan; M Shields, B Donaghy, G McCabe; S Sheridan, N Grimley; J Hall, R Grugan, R McShane; S Campbell, R O'Neill, J Clarke

Down: R Burns; R McAleenan, N Donnelly, S Murnin; S Fegan, C Flanagan, J Flynn; C Francis, L Devlin; C McGrady, C Poland, S McConville; P Devlin, P Havern, J Johnston.

Laois (v Down): G Brody; D Seale, M Timmons, A Campion; S Attride, R Pigott, G Dillon; J O'Loughlin, K Lillis; D O'Connor, C Boyle, S Byrne; C Murphy, E O'Carroll, P Kingston.

Derry (v Antrim): T Mallon; S Quinn, K McKaigue, E Concannon; E McGill, C McKaigue, J Rocks; C McAtamney, C McFaul; P Coney, E Bradley, P Cassidy; E Lynn, S McGuigan, C Bradley.

ALLIANZ FOOTBALL LEAGUE FIXTURES

Saturday

Division Two

Division One
Mayo1-08Roscommon1-07
Division Three
Down1-12Laois2-15
Division Four
Waterford0-09Wicklow1-07

Sunday - 14:00 GMT unless stated

Division One
KerryvTyroneKillarney
MonaghanvDublinClones
GalwayvCavanSalthill - 14:30
Division Two
ClarevDonegalEnnis
FermanaghvCorkEnniskillen
KildarevArmaghNewbridge
MeathvTipperaryNavan
Division Three
CarlowvSligoNetwatch Cullen Park
OffalyvWestmeathTullamore
LouthvLongfordDrogheda - 14:30
Division Four
LeitrimvWexfordCarrick-on-Shannon
LondonvLimerickMcGovern Park
AntrimvDerryCorrigan Park

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