Feature: Ulster’s top man-markers

SHAUN Casey takes a look at the best man-markers in Ulster football today, including a number of players who will play in the upcoming final between Derry and Donegal

Aidan Forker
A talented attacker, Forker has played almost everywhere for the Orchard County. The Maghery man has found perhaps his best position on the edge of Armagh’s defensive square and has excelled against some of the best forwards in the country.

Forker is one of the main leaders within the Armagh camp and he is Kieran McGeeney’s go-to man-marker and has enjoyed good games on Darren McCurry, Daniel Flynn and Michael Murphy in recent years.

Brendan McCole
Coming off the back of his most difficult job this season, McCole didn’t have the best of days against Cavan’s Paddy Lynch in the Ulster semi-final. Other than that, the Donegal full back has been solid and is a readymade replacement for Neil McGee in the number three shirt.

He has made the full back position his own this year and performed brilliantly in the first round of the championship when he held Armagh’s star man Rian O’Neill scoreless.

Chrissy McKaigue
Perhaps the best in the business. McKaigue is as trustworthy a man-marker as you are likely to find, and he is Rory Gallagher’s number one plan to stop the oppositions best forward.

He earned huge credit for shadowing Paddy McBrearty in last year’s Ulster Championship and has enjoyed other notable displays against Rian O’Neill, Darren McCurry and more recently Jack McCarron. A huge addition to the Derry defence and a driving force behind their success this season.

Padraig Hampsey
Hampsey is a leader in the mould of Conor Gormley. He’ll sacrifice his game to blot out the opposition’s best player but when provided with the opportunity, he can showcase he’s footballing ability as well.

Has had several duals with the likes of Conor McManus and Michael Murphy and has the physical presence to cope with anyone. As he showed last year, he’s not a one trick pony and he can drive forward to kick over scores as well, hitting a beautiful point in last year’s All-Ireland final victory over Mayo.

Brendan Rogers
Like a lot of names on the list, Rodgers is an exceptional footballer as well as a brilliant man-marker. The speed at which he can break out of defence with the ball and transition up the field is a huge asset to Derry. Rogers first made his name as a man-marker when manning the edge of the square for Sleacht Néill now performs at the same level for Rory Gallagher’s men. He also kept a tight leash on Gary Mohan in last weekend’s win over Monaghan.

Darren O’Hagan
It’s not a good time to be a Down fan for obvious reasons but you don’t have to hail from the Mourne County to appreciate Darren O’Hagan.

A tough, tenacious defender, O’Hagan would walk on to most teams throughout the country.

The Clonduff man has given his all to the Down cause and his inspirational man-marking displays led them to their last Ulster final appearance in 2017.

He remains Downs best man-marker.

Ronan McNamee
McNamee is a tried and trusted man-marked in the Tyrone rear guard. He earned a huge compliment last season when he was tasked with the nearly impossible job of halting David Clifford’s influence in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final.

While Clifford scored 0-8, McNamee picked up huge plaudits for his display and he’s the one that man’s the Tyrone defensive square and was hugely prominent in leading the Red Hands to All-Ireland glory with his performances last year.

Stephen McMenamin
Showed the last day out against Gearoid McKiernan that despite his size, McMenamin (pictured below) is a match for anyone.

He’s a no-nonsense defender that has marked some of the best in the province, including the likes of Shane McGuigan and Rian O’Neill in recent years. His dual with McGuigan in the Ulster final will be crucial and whoever comes out on top will go a long way to helping their team get their hands on the Anglo Celt.

Killian Clarke
Anyone who has been trusted to man-mark Michael Murphy as much as Killian Clarke has must be good at their job. Clarke is the general at the heart of the Breffni defence and continues to lead the back line.

The talented Shercock man helped Mickey Graham’s side to the now famous Ulster crown in 2020 when they defeated Donegal and he’s also represented Ireland during the last series of the International Rules.

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