THEY have shared a pitch in the past as well as the pundit’s sofa, but now James McCartan and Martin McHugh will meet as managers as Queen’s host IT Sligo in the Sigerson Cup on Wednesday evening.
Both men have returned in an attempt to re-enact past glories. McCartan was in charge in 2007 when the Malone Road men last won the competition while McHugh guided the Connacht side to success in 2002.
Neither side reached the knock-out stages of their respective January competitions, but both will take to the Dub Arena pitch with genuine hopes of progressing in the competition.
Queen’s will be buoyed by a round three win against a lacklustre Derry side while Sligo showed some good patches of play in their draw with NUIG last time out.
One worry for McHugh will be the small scoring tallies they posted throughout the FBD League.
Playing an ultra defensive system, they hit 0-8 against the Galway students, 0-5 against eventual champions Roscommon and 0-6 against Mayo. They conceded 0-37 in response.
As per usual there’s a strong Donegal presence on the team with the McHugh brothers, Mark and Ryan, leading the charge – although the latter did miss a penalty against Roscommon.
Eoin McHugh, Eunan Doherty and Ryan Marley also boost the Tir Chonaill numbers in the squad.
The Queen’s men will have experience of the Donegal style of play having travelled to Sean MacCumhaill Park earlier this month.
They found Rory Gallagher’s side too strong, although there were a few good performances from the likes of Tony Donnelly, who kicked 0-3 from play.
Before that they had been strangely quiet against Fermanagh, losing out on a 1-13 to 0-9 scoreline. The Erne side had hit the post and the crossbar too, and the margin could have been greater. Donnelly top-scored from play with two points while Ryan Murray chipped in with three points, two from frees.
The performance against Derry was much better however, even if the Oakleafers fielded without a host of regulars.
Murray put in a stunning performance, grabbing 1-5 in the process, in the four-point victory while Donnelly grabbed his sixth point from play in the McKenna Cup.
That will be the confident boost McCartan will try to build on in what is a tough opener for the Belfast university.
Both sides are likely to pull men back, ensuring the middle of the park will be a congested area.
It was noticeable that Sligo’s shooting from distance was particularly poor over the last few weeks, and Queen’s will try and keep them away from Michael Cunningham’s goal.
If they can keep their goal fairly protected, they can record a spot in the next round given the accuracy the possess in attack.
Wednesday 28th January
Sigerson Cup first round – Queen’s University Vs IT Sligo – Arena pitch at 7pm
Referee Barry Cassidy