Intermediate Hurling Championship semi-finals
Carey Faughs v Creggan Kickhams @ 3-30pm in Armoy
It is going to be town v country in the Intermediate Hurling final as Saturday’s semi-final pits Carey Faughs from North Antrim against Creggan Kickhams from the South West, while Sunday’s showdown sees South Antrim rivals St Gall’s take on St Enda’s at Corrigan Park. St Enda’s do play their underage hurling in North Antrim but most hurling people would still regard them as being from the city.
Saturday’s meeting sees the Faughs head back to Armoy, scene of last season’s final defeat to Sarsfields, to take on a team with real championship pedigree. The men from the shores of Lough Neagh have tasted success in this competition just three years ago when they beat Carey at Saturday’s venue on September 19th 2015 before going on to add the Ulster title, after having won the Ulster and All Ireland junior crowns just two years previous.
Carey have been knocking at the door for a few years now without getting over the line and they are desperate to do so this time around. After dropping down to Division 3 last season the men from Ballyvoy have fought back from a bad start to the season to win promotion back to the second tier. In their most recent meeting with Saturday’s opponents they recorded a seven point win over the Kickhams in Carey on August 8th (2-16 to 2-9) while just three weeks earlier they travelled to Creggan and beat them by 0-21 to 2-19 in a much tighter affair. In their quarter final against Cloney Gaels they really turned on the style as they beat an Ahoghill team who had been most impressive when beating Cloughmills in the opening round. Many had tipped the Ahoghill men to go all the way but Carey had their measure as they won by 2-20 to 2-13.
Creggan started the season really well and were going great guns early on until the wheels came off the wagon midway through the league campaign. They won their first six games and were sitting top of the table but things turned against them badly and a series of defeats, including one to Carey, derailed their promotion hopes. Of course what you have to take into consideration in the fact that Creggan are a dual club and many of the team are turning out for the footballers every other week, a football team that has been going from strength to strength this season. They were back in good form when beating Rasharkin in the quarter final of hurling two weeks ago and as the championship season gets to the business end of things they have the pedigree and know-how to compete with anyone.
Recent league form would point towards a Carey win here but championship hurling, and the pressure it creates, is a completely different matter. There is a lot at stake for both teams in what should be a real thriller so let’s hope the weather is kind and the crowds turn out in big numbers.
St Enda’s v St Gall’s
Sunday @ 5pm in Corrigan Park.
2016 beaten finalists St Enda’s will bid to get back to another decider when they take on St Gall’s in Sunday’s semi-final at Corrigan Park. Two years ago the Glengormley outfit looked set to win their first title at this grade when they led Cloughmills down the home straight but a late goal from the Biddies Liam Kearns snatched the carpet from under them at the death. Since winning the club’s first ever adult hurling title back in 2012 when they beat Cushendun in a replay of the Junior Hurling Championship the men from Hightown have had their sights firmly set on winning the Intermediate crown. They have recorded some memorable wins along the way, including an extra time victory over Osins in the 2016 semi-final, but their search for the Intermediate crown still goes on.
They were impressive in their quarter final win over Tir na nÓg two weeks ago. After a tight first half it appeared they were up against it when they lost star forward John McGoldrick to a second yellow card early in the second half, but rather than hinder them it appeared to lift their game another notch and they went on to record a 3-17 to 2-8 win.
Their league form has been good and though they missed out on promotion they finished in third place, one behind St Gall’s but in their head to head with Sunday’s opponents they haven’t fared so well. When the side met at Milltown Row back in June St Gall’s were much the better team as they ran out convincing winners by 2-18 to 0-7, though it was a much tighter affair in the return leg in August up in Glengormley when just four points separated the sides (1-16 to 2-17)
It is nine years since the men from the Bog Meadows last won the Intermediate title, beating Lamh Dhearg in the final in Casement Park before going on to win Ulster and eventually qualify for an All Ireland final when they lost to St Lachtain’s of Kilkenny. Of course they have since gone on to qualify for a county senior final in 2014, and though they were well beaten that day, to reach a senior final was quite an achievement for a side who are mainly regarded as a football club.
They started their league campaign badly this season and after suffering early defeats they started to get their old squad together and slowly but surely the climbed up the table to seal promotion to the top grade once again. In their preliminary round game against Gort na Móna they were cruising to victory until they ended up getting three men sent off. That really put the cat among the pigeons for a spell but in the end they rode out the storm to book a place in the quarter final against Oisins.
Under the lights at Quinn Park, Ballymena they had just too much know-how for the Glenariffe men, adapting much better to the conditions to win by 1-17 to 1-9. During the first half there wasn’t a lot between the sides but as they game progressed they got the better of things and during the second half they were always in control.
St Gall’s will go into Sunday’s game as favourites, and indeed probably favourites to win the title outright. However St Enda’s will be no push over and they will take courage from their most recent league meeting when just four points separated the sides.