Ulster Intermediate Football Club Championship (Corrigan park Sunday)
St. Brigid’s Antrim v St. Bronagh’s Rostrevor
St. Brigid’s head into this weekend’s Ulster Intermediate club championship against St. Bronagh’s Rostrevor cast in the role of underdogs but with the game scheduled for Corrigan Park, a familiar venue for the Belfast men I don’t think there will be much between the sides at the final whistle.
St. Brigid’s defeated All Saints in the semi-final of the Antrim championship at the same venue and were quite impressive, scoring four goals against the Ballymena side on the way to a convincing victory. In their first outing this year, a preliminary round, they found it much more difficult and only got through by a rather fortunate late goal against Tir na nOg, Randalstown.
Perhaps their biggest test came in the quarter-final where they were drawn against St. Enda’s and the Glengormley side went into that game as strong favourites having gained promotion to Division 1 but St. Brigid’s turned in a sterling performance to edge home 1-11 to 1-9.
James Smith top scored for St. Brigid’s with 1-1 and John Blayney (0-3), Ronan O’Grady (0-3), Jack Dowling (0-2) and Ben Leonard and Peter Webb were the scorers for the Musgrave Park side.
In the semi-final against All Saints the ‘Biddies’ really found their shooting boots, aided by an All Saints defence who went AWOL and the Musgrave Park side scored an impressive 4-9 to 0-11 win. John Blayney led the way with 2-0 and Jack Dowling and Ruairi O’Neill were the other goal scorers while Ronan McGrady weighed in with an impressive 0-5 and Cathal Conway, Peter Webb, Ruairi Finnegan and Ben Leonard were all on target.
In the Antrim final St. Brigid’s met a Cuchullain’s Dunloy side smarting from defeat in the previous two Antrim finals and there were many who felt that this would be Dunloy’s year due to the emergence of a number of young players who had been in sparkling form throughout the league and championship.
St. Brigid’s, on the other hand were searching for only their second Intermediate championship success and their first since 2005 and they were determined that this would be their year. The North Antrim men led by 0-6 to 0-5 at half time although their goal had survived a few scares late in the half.
The introduction of Ruaridh O’Neill in the second half proved a master stroke and the bearded red headstarted to pull the strings as St. Brigid’s began to get on top. There was little in it however at the end of the third quarter and indeed their keeper Stephen Morrissey pulled off his second splendid save of the game to deny Conor McKinley what looked a certain goal.
Morrisey’ breath taking save, coupled with the guile of O’Neill saw the Musgrave Park side push on and a splendid goal by substitute Ben Leonard with three minutes remaining killed off the Dunloy challenge and brought about scenes of wild celebration.
WHAT OF ROSTREVOR
On Sunday at Corrigan Park, St. Brigid’s take on St. Bronagh’s Rostrevor in the Ulster club championship and they are sure to face stiff opposition from the Down men. St. Bronagh’s gained promotion to division 1 this season following a very successful league campaign.
On the way to the league title they recorded wins over Newry Shamrocks, Liatrom, Saval, Annaclone, Darragh Cross and Bredagh with their only defeat coming to Carryduff at the beginning of this month. On their way to Intermediate championship success they defeated Drumaness in round one before going on to complete a successful season when they defeated Annaclone in the championship final.
Their best known player is Caolan Mooney who has been a member of the Down county side for a couple of years now and has recently been nominated for a place of the 2017 PwC All Star side. Jonathan Parr in goals and Darran McElhinney and Niall Farrell are likely to anchor their defence and Mooney at midfield should be partnered by Joe Morgan.
In attack Brian Keenan (1-0), Conor Fegan (0-3), Piaras Kane (0-2), Damian Magee (0-1) and substitute Peter Magee with Caolan Mooney (0-2) were their scorers against Annaclone in the county final and they do appear to have a potent threat in attack.
Their captain Jarlath Farrell insists there is more to come from his side. “Our goal at the start of the year was to win the Intermediate Club Championship and win promotion out of Division Two,” said Farrell, “That’s one objective achieved and we have another one to go and we are not going to forget about it.” In the final Played in Pairc Esler, it was a contest that won’t go down as a classic, but that matters little to Rostrevor who did enough to keep Annaclone at bay.
St. Brigid’s will have run the rule over the Down side but are likely to concentrate on their own strengths and game plan as they attempt to get over the first hurdle in Ulster. They are a strong side with a good balance of youth and experience.
They have an excellent keeper in Stephen Morrisey who pulled off an exceptional save in both the semi-final and final while Conor King is a young full-back who gives little away. Ben Synott at centre half is an excellent defender who likes to push forward when the opportunity presents itself and captained the side to Division 2 honours in 2015.
Enda Clarke and Cathal Conway have been the mid-field pairing in recent games though Jack Dowling could line out there if fully fit. The Antrim county player has been carrying a niggling injury of late and has lined out in the full-forward line.
In attack Ruairi Finnegan, son of former Antrim and St. Paul’s player Greg, James Smith and Ronan McGready, all pose an attacking threat while Ruairidh O’Neill is likely to be challenging for a starting place following the impact he made when introduced in the Antrim final. James Smith and John Blayney are others challenging for a place.
Ben Leonard is another who will give the selectors a selection headache following his spectacular goal against Dunloy but for manager Eunan Conway it is a nice headache to have as he plots the downfall of St. Bronagh’s Rostrevor.
The Down champions will start this game as favourites but St. Brigid’s have run into a fine vein of form at just the right stage of the season and if they can produce their best form on Sunday then they can advance to a place in the next round.