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We Go Again: Clubs throw-in on 2018 Ulster campaigns

Aaron Strain runs the rule over the opening salvos of Ulster Club Football action.

As the last stragglers trickled away from Clonliffe Avenue and into the Dublin night, focus for GAA fans over the next few weeks will turn back to their own parishes.

Indeed, many club competitions have already swung into action over the Easter weekend.

In Tyrone, county champions Omagh St. Enda’s started this year’s league campaign with a draw away to Senior League new boys Derrylaughan on Saturday afternoon, whilst there were impressive wins for Clonoe and Dromore over the opening weekend.

It was all change in Monaghan, as a new league campaign saw the introduction of a new format awarding five points for a win, in games where county panellists are available to their club sides. Early pacesetters include defending county champions Scotstown, who put Ballybay to the sword.

Castleblayney, Carrickmacross, Clontibret and Monaghan Harps the other four clubs to come away with five points from their first games.

Games in Fermanagh and Armagh will commence next Sunday as their county sides contested the National League Division Three Final at headquarters on Saturday afternoon.

No such luxuries were afforded in the Breffni county, despite Cavan’s senior footballers falling short in a Division Two final goal-fest on Sunday. On the eve of the county’s match against Roscommon, club sides went into battle for the first time this calendar year. Newcomers to top flight football, Killygarry and Crosserlough came head to head, with the latter coming out on top. Elsewhere, last year’s table-toppers Kingscourt Stars fell to a heavy defeat at Lacken.

Donegal’s club season got off to a flying start with games being played on both Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Gaoth Dobhair, St. Eunan’s and Kilcar showing early prominence, each enjoying two wins over the Holy Weekend.

The majority of league contests in Down and Derry will commence midweek, however, there were rearranged fixtures in both counties that took place over the weekend. On Sunday morning, Warrenpoint beat a wasteful Mayobridge – the home side registering 21 wides on their way to defeat – to kick off this years schedule in the Mourne County. On Saturday evening, Lavey played host to Derry club football’s first tussle of 2018, as the home side put pay to Dungiven.

Fixtures in County Antrim are timetabled to begin on April 18th, where this year, a particular story of interest will be that of Laochra Loch Lao – the standalone Gaeltacht club in West Belfast will enter the competitive arena for the first time at Junior level.

On the hurling front, Rossa made it two wins from two in the Antrim ACHL Division 1, defeating West Belfast neighbours St John’s by four points on Sunday. After Loughgiel and Cushendall couldn’t be separated in the first round of fixtures, they each registered their first victories of the campaign – home wins over Ards Peninsula pair, Ballycran and Ballygalget respectively.

In Division 2, McQuillan’s Ballycastle and Patrick Sarsfields share top spot after each picking up their second wins of the season, whilst Tír na nÓg follow in third, battling to a draw in the glens against Glenariffe.

Next Sunday’s highlight will see Dunloy cross the Frosses Road to take on Loughgiel, while Rossa will have a golden opportunity to continue their winning ways against bottom club Ballycran.

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