Intermediate Hurling Championship
St Enda’s v Sarsfields
Corrigan Park, Belfast
By John McIlwaine
Last year’s beaten finalists St Enda’s bid to make it back to this season’s decider when they take on Sarsfields at Corrigan Park on Saturday evening. Standing in their way are a Sarsfields side fresh from their quarter-final victory over St Gall’s on Wednesday evening, a confidence boosting win that will see the Stewardstown Park side go in as favourties. That probably suits St Enda’s fine, for in truth there is little between the sides going by their league for this season. Admittedly the shambolic nature of the combined Division 3 & 4 may not be the ideal guidebook to judge form on, but St Enda’s currently top the table on 24 points having played 14 of their sixteen games, while Sarsfields are just two behind on 22 with 11 games played. The would appear to give Sarsfields a slight edge, but the two still have to meet in the league yet so it promises to be close.
St Enda’s started their Championship campaign with a 1-13 to 1-9 win over Armoy in a game played in terrible underfoot conditions in Randalstown. Both teams were ankle deep in water after a deluge that preceded the game, creating conditions that certainly wwere not conducive to good hurling, but St Enda’s, and their full forward John McGoldrick in particular, looked as if they were on a perfect surface. McGoldrick hit scores from all angles and distances that day as his man of the match performance saw his side through by four points. In their quarter final they struggled at times against last season’s Junior Champions Lamh Dhearg but once again McGoldrick was the man who got them over the line with a personal total of 1-9.
Wednesday evening’s win over St Gall’s was Sarsfields first game of the campaign after that tie had to be postponed two weeks ago, due to the death of the mother of Sarsfields chairman Paul Barr. The Paddies didn’t seal the win over the Milltown men until the final minutes but in truth they looked the better team all through the game. Their strength comes from the McKernan cousins Kevin and Daniel and county star Niall McKenna. All of these three looked dangerous every time they got the ball against St Gall’s and if St Enda’s are to advance on Saturday evening they will have to keep this potent and skilful trio in check. Of course St Enda’s have their own danger men at the other end and though Sarsfields only conceded a single point from play against St Gall’s there were times when their defence looked far from stable. Overall this promised to be a cracking game which could go either way, though the smart money will probably be on Sarsfields to advance.
Carey Faughs v Tír naÓg
Carey Faughs and Tír naÓg will cross swords in the Intermediate Championship for the third year in a row on Sunday at Armoy in a game that promises to be tight and competitive. On the evidence of the league table there is nothing between these two sides. Both are sitting on ten points in the league table and as it has turned out both involved in a relegation dog fight, though the Faughs have won both meetings between the sides in the league this season.
Carey staged a great fightback in their quarter final against Glenariffe when they came from nine points down ten minutes before half time to win with a bit to spare in the end. The Oisins appeared destined for a semi-final that day in Armoy but Carey hit back with seven points in a row before half time to turn the game around. James ‘Rocket’ Black, who had been very quiet during the first half suddenly found his stride and he had a big say in his team’s second half performance which saw them home by 2-20 to 1-10. Black had been influential for his team during the league campaign along with the likes of centre back James McCouaige and star forward Shay Hunter and the Carey fans will hope that these three are all on top form this weekend.
While Carey have only hurling to occupy their thoughts in the lead up to the game Tír na nÓg have been active in both codes and last weekend suffered an agonising injury time defeat to St Brigid’s in the Intermediate Football Championship in Glenavy. On top of that one of their top performers Sean Duffin suffered a bad toe injury and is rated as highly unlikely to make the starting line up on Sunday. Duffin was one of the stars of the St Louis Ballymena team who were pipped at the post in the 2016 All Ireland Colleges B final in Thurles and his absence would be a bad blow to the Randalstown side.
In their quarter final Tír na nÓg were in top form as they beat Rasharkin by 1-16 to 0-13, again in Armoy. With wind advantage the Randalstown men built up a convincing lead in the first half and though Rasharkin made a spirited comeback in the second half the men from Whitehill were able to up the pace again and get themselves over the line. They were badly depleted because of their football commitments when they met Carey in the league just two weeks ago and went down to a heavy defeat but the Faughs won’t get so easy this time around, and with the football out of the way this is now the club’s main goal for the season. They have turned in some top class displays in the league this season as they claimed the scalps of the likes of Glenariffe and Portaferry which proves that on the day they are a match for any team. If they can recapture some of that form on Sunday then Carey must be wary, but the Boys from Barnish will go in as favourites and should have enough in the tank to get over the finish line.