St. Agnes v St. Patrick’s Lisburn (Friday-Woodlands 7-00)
The first Junior Football Championship semi-final is down for decision on Friday night at Woodlands (7-00) where last year’s beaten finalists, St. Patrick’s Lisburn take on St. Agnes and at a first glance this looks like one that Naomh Padraig should win comfortably.
The sides met at the quarter-final stage last year and despite the ‘Aggies’ enjoying home advantage the Lisburn men ran out fairly comfortable winners in the end. In the county final St. Patrick’s were expected to be an easy touch for Sarsfield’s but they pushed the Stewartstown Road side all the way before losing by a couple of points.
Naomh Padraig had little difficulty in defeating Eire Og in their opening game of this year’s campaign at Cliftonville setting up a quarter-final meeting with Kickham’s Ardoyne at Friday night’s venue.
A strong second half display by St Patrick’s Lisburn saw them book a place in the semi-final at the expense of Ardoyne at Woodlands. Trailing by two at half time the Lisburn men were a more assured side in the second half against 14 men Ardoyne and after drawing level just two minutes after the restart they pushed on to edge a hard fought battle.
Josh McMullan, Francis McMeel, Kevin Lynch, Eoin Fay and Martin Kennedy were amongst the Naomh Padraig scorers on the night and McMullan is a player with real talent and one that the St. Agnes defence will have to keep a tight rein on if they are to cause an upset.
League performances would suggest that Naomh Padraig already have one foot in the final with the Lisburn side pushing for promotion this season while St. Agnes find themselves at the wrong end of the table but this might not be the push over that some pundits have predicted.
The ‘Aggies’ turned in an excellent team performance when defeating a fancied St. Malachy’s last time out at St. Teresa’s on the Glen Road and Kieran McCoy and Kevin Burkeside’s teak were quite impressive on the day. The Aggies did most of the damage during a good spell in the opening half and good first time ball into Ronan Carroll and Cormac McBride was to cause the ‘Mal’s’ defence a lot of early problems.
The boys in Black hit eight points between the 17th and 23rd minutes to put themselves in pole position and it was a scoring blitz that St. Malachy’s were unable to recover from. Carroll, Kelly, Caldwell and McBride were to the fore and will need to again be in top form if they are to have any chance of advancing to the final.
This could be a robust affair with St. Agnes attempting to upset the rhythm of the St. Patrick’s men and if they can hang in there until late in the game then they will be in with a shout but if Naomh Padraig come close to the best form they have shown this season then there is likely to be only one winner
Verdict: St. Patrick’s by five points
Con Magee’s v O’Donnell’s (Saturday 1-00 Glenavy)
This one looks a harder one to call as Con Magee’s, who won the title two years ago take on an O’Donnell’s side who have been playing in division 2 this season following promotion from division 3 as runners up to Sarsfield’s in 2017.
The ‘Cardinals’ have experienced a difficult season in the higher grade, losing all their games and will play their football back in division 3 next year. By virtue of those results they have slipped in below most people’s radar and wouldn’t have been fancied at the start of this year’s Junior Championship.
Their year in division 2 doesn’t appear to have done them as much damage as some would have thought however and they came out on top in a tight battle with St. Comgall’s Antrim with a disputed goal the main talking point at the final whistle.
The Antrim men led 1-6 to 1-5 at the interval thanks to a Ciaran Ferran point for the Cardinal’s men in first half injury time. That disputed goal early in the second half saw this terrific game turn back in O’Donnell’s favour but St. Comgall’s battled back to draw level. O’Donnell’s were not to be denied however and two excellently struck injury time points from frees by Padraig McKissock saw them book a semi-final spot at the end of a highly entertaining game.
Con Magee’s Glenravel had a much more comfortable passage into Saturday’s semi-final. A fine individual scoring display by left half forward Josh McKeown which yielded a goal and six points, helped them to a 3-10 to 2-5 victory over Pearses at Quinn Park, McKeown was the main scoring threat for the Glenravel men, hitting 1-3 in a dominant first half.
Glenravel and O’Donnell’s last met in the league in 2017 when O’Donnell’s defeated the Glen’s-men in an at times bad tempered affair at McCrory Park on a day that certainly wasn’t conducive to good football and I wouldn’t expect there to be too much between them on Saturday.
Paul McCurry, Niall Swann, Conor Carey, David Higgins, Kieran McKeown, Josh McKeown and Declan Traynor are the men who will lead the Con Magee’s charge. O’Donnell’s will look to Marc Mallon, Jim Donnelly, Steven Seawright, Padraig McKissock and Fergal McNerney as they go in search of a result that could save their season.
This one looks difficult to call and conditions on the day could play a part but Con Magee’s have had a good season in division 3 and are still in the promotion chase with only a couple of rounds of the league to play.
Verdict: Con Magee’s by a couple of points
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