Dr McKenna Cup: Tyrone fancied for six-in-a-row in season-opening competition

Tyrone's Sean Cavanagh battles with Cavan's James McEnroe in last year's Ulster semi-final replay
Tyrone hammered Cavan in last year's Ulster semi-final replay

Tyrone will be fancied to land a sixth straight Dr McKenna Cup after Mickey Harte, in contrast to a couple of the other managers, named a strong squad for the season-opening competition.

The Red Hands face Cavan at Breffni Park with under-strength Donegal facing Ulster University also in Section C.

Derry and Armagh will have a mix of youth and experience in their Section A game where Down also face QUB.

In Section B, Monaghan host Fermanagh with Antrim up against St Mary's.

Niall Morgan, Peter Harte, Tiernan McCann, Connor McAliskey, Niall Sludden and Ronan O'Neill will all start for Tyrone against Cavan while Sean Cavanagh, Mattie Donnelly and Justin McMahon are named in the subs.

Michael Cassisy, Declan McClure and Cahir McCullagh all make their debuts for Harte's side as will Ronan McHugh and Harry Loughran if they are introduced.

Cathal McCarron is suspended for the Reds Hands following his sending off in last year's McKenna Cup Final

New Cavan manager Mattie McGleenan has named a largely experienced squad for the competition although David Givney is a notable absentee after pulling out of the squad following his appointment to a new job in London.

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Mickey Harte aims to lead Tyrone to a sixth consecutive Dr McKenna Cup success

With Donegal picking an under-21 squad for the Ulster competition, Ulster University will be favourites to earn an opening win at Ballybofey.

Martin McHugh's Jordanstown squad are likely to include Donegal regulars Paddy McBrearty, Ryan McHugh and Eoin McHugh as well as several Tyrone senior panelists.

Derry manager Damien Barton has named a very unfamiliar looking line-up for their tussle against Armagh at Owenbeg.

Experience will be provided by Niall Forester, Ryan Bell, Emmett McGuckin and Benny Herron but there are several debutants including Patrick Coney, Peter Hagan, Jack Doherty and Michael Warnock.

Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney has indicated he will pick his strongest possible side in the competition but James Morgan and Ciaran McKeever are among players being rested while at this stage, Jamie Clarke also looks unlikely to feature in the January games.

McGeeney has experienced campaigners Charlie Vernon, Mark Shields, Ethan Rafferty, Rory Grugan, Aidan Forker, Stephen Campbell, Gavin McParland and Aaron Findon all available but like all the other managers, the Armagh boss will be without several university-tied players.

Down are also a missing a large third-level contingent with Kilcoo's Aaron Morgan among 10 Mourne County men in James McCartan's QUB squad in line to face their own county at Downpatrick.

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Mattie McGleenan's side will face Tyrone in Sunday's opening day of action

The Queen's Down personnel includes Martin Clarke, who has opted out of Eamonn Burns' squad.

Kevin McKernan is set to feature for St Mary's in the competition while Burns is minus all of his Kilcoo contingent after their autumn club campaign in Ulster.

Newcomers called up by Burns for the competition include former Ballymena United soccer player Alan Davidson, who joins his Bredagh club-mates Conor Francis and Donal Hughes among the fresh faces.

Fermanagh's McKenna Cup absentees include Ruairi Corrigan, Sean Quigley and Ryan Jones who are all recovering from injury although Quigley could feature in the later stages of the competition.

On the plus side, Ryan McCluskey and Eddie Courtney are named in the panel after long periods out because of injury while squad newcomers include James Duffy and Tommy McCaffrey.

Fermanagh open their McKenna campaign at Clones against a Monaghan team which includes debutants James Mealiff and Michael Bannigan.

Conor Forde, Aaron Lynch, Stephen Mc Cabe, Stephen Finnegan, Niall Kearns and Mikey Murnaghan are also in line to make Monaghan debuts after being named in the subs.

Antrim managers Frank Fitzsimons and Gearoid Adams could give debuts to squad newcomers Stephen Tully, Sean Donnelly, Seamus McGarry, Pat Brannigan, Oisin Lenaghan and Eunan Walsh in the other Section B game against St Mary's at Glenavy.

Tyrone players Conall McCann, Kieran McGeary, Conor McShane and Conor Meyler could be in action for St Mary's along with Down's McKernan.

Tyrone: N Morgan; A McCrory, J Munroe, R McNabb; M Cassidy, T McCann, N Sludden, D McClure, P McNulty; D McCurry, P Harte, C McCullagh; L Brennan, C McAliskey, R O'Neill.

Derry: B McKinless; O Hegarty, O Duffin, P Hagan; P Coney, J Doherty, N Forester; G O'Neill, A McLaughlin; M Warnock, N Loughlin, C McWilliams; R Bell, E McGuckin, B Heron.

Monaghan: R Beggan; O Coyle, F Kelly, R Wylie; K Duffy, C Walshe, B Greenan; D Hughes, K Hughes; K O'Connell, J Mealiff, G Doogan; F McGeough, T Kerr, M Bannigan.

2017 Dr McKenna Cup

Round 1: Sunday, 8 January, 14:00 GMT

Section A

Down v QUB (Downpatrick)

Derry v Armagh (Owenbeg)

Section B

Antrim v St Mary's (Glenavy)

Monaghan V Fermanagh (Clones)

Section C

Cavan v Tyrone (Kingspan Breffni Park)

Donegal v Ulster University (Pairc MacCumhaill)

Round 2: Saturday 14 January (19:00 GMT)

Tyrone v Ulster University (Healy Park)

Sunday, 15 January

Section A

Down v Derry (Pairc Esler)

Armagh V QUB (Athletic Grounds)

Section B

Antrim v Monaghan (Corrigan Park)

Fermanagh v St Mary's (Brewster Park)

Section C

Donegal v Cavan (Pairc MacCumhaill)

Round 3: Wednesday, 18 January

Section A

Derry v QUB (Owenbeg)

Armagh v Down (Athletic Grounds)

Section B

Fermanagh v Antrim (Brewster Park)

Monaghan v St Mary's (Inniskeen)

Section C

Cavan v Ulster University (Kingspan Breffni Park)

Tyrone v Donegal (Healy Park)

Semi-finals: Sunday, 22 January

Section C Winner V Best Runner Up

Section B Winner V Section A Winner

Final: Saturday, 28 January

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