While both Monaghan and Tyrone will both be hoping to pick up a bit of silverware at the Athletic Grounds this evening in the McKenna Cup final, both their managers will already feel they have achieved what they set out to in the January competition.
Mickey Harte and new Monaghan boss Malachy O’Rourke have both experimented with players, whilst also easing other more senior players back into action.
For Tyrone, the big positive has been the seamless return to action of Seán Cavanagh. He has been one of their best players in the competition, and already looks set to be in for a big Allianz League campaign.
Tyrone have won four out of four of their matches so far, beating Derry by two points, Antrim by six points, UUJ by 12 points, and then Fermanagh in the semi-final by eight points.
Monaghan look rejuvenated under the management of Malachy O’Rourke. Wins over St Mary’s and Fermanagh, as well as a huge win over an unfamiliar Donegal, preceded their semi-final win over Down last Sunday.
O’Rourke has gone with an experienced side for January, and the stand-out player for him Monaghan have won the McKenna Cup more times in their history than anyone else, with their last title coming 10 years ago, in 2003.
Although few would be getting over-excited if they added their 14th title on Saturday, it would be a very good sign ahead of their campaign in Division III of the Allianz League, when they will be looking to bounce back from their relegation in 2012.
Tyrone, for their part, are the reigning champions and if they win on Saturday, it will be Harte’s sixth McKenna Cup title as manager.
Tyrone: N Morgan; A McCrory, C Clarke, B Tierney; R McNamee, J McMahon, D McBride; P Kane, S Cavanagh; T McCann, P Harte, M Donnelly; C McAlliskey, S O’Neill, M Donnelly.
Monaghan: M Keogh; R McNally, F Kelly, K Duffy; D Mone, D Hughes, M McElroy; D Clerkin, O Lennon; O Duffy, P Finlay, S McQuillan; K Hughes, C McManus, D Malone.