Geordie McGuckin takes a look at this weekend’s Senior Football Championship Quarter Finals
Friday 21st September
Kickham’s Creggan v St Mary’s Ahoghill at Ballymena (7.30pm)
The opening game in the quarter finals of the senior championship will take place under the lights of All Saints’ Quinn Park, Ballymena as St Mary’s Ahoghill and Kickham’s Creggan cross swords in search of a place in the semi finals.
The Clooney men did have a previous outing in a win gained over St Brigid’s in a preliminary affair on the same venue and will look for a repeat performance in this all South West affair.
Creggan have impressed thus far in the 2018 season and with the O’ Cahan cup to take residence up at their Staffordstown Road complex for the winter and the Division One league title almost assured Kevin Madden’s charges are in search of a unique treble with the senior championship, and the jewel in the crown in focus.
The Kickham’s men looked a side on the march in the O’ Cahan cup final and with Conor Small and Marty Johnston back in harness to supplement a strong squad in which the Mc Cann’s, Ruairi, Conor, and Dermot figure prominently together with Fintan Burke, Ricki Johnston, Liam Quinn and Kevin Small they will start this one as firm favourites.
Ahoghill did give the Kickham’s a scare last term at the same juncture in the championship and it took a late comeback and a few late scores from replacement Mark Dougan to see Creggan home and the St Mary’s side will certainly not take the field with any inferiority complex.
The Clooney men are strong at the back where Sean O’ Connell and Joey Hamill may well be prominent and well equipped in the central zone with Neil ‘Boris O’ Connell’ and Martin Graham likely to form a solid partnership with James O’ Connell and Eoin Neeson lively in the offensive and may well give the favourites a run for their money.
Saturday 22nd Sep
St Gall’s v Casement’s Portglenone at Corrigan Park (5.00pm)
Although form has possibly tailed off a little in the 2018 season and losing top spot in the league ratings St Gall’s have impressed this term and they will line out against the side which has inflicted back to back defeats of late they will start as firm favourites to get the better of Casement’s.
The Milltown men under the watchful eyes of Sean Kelly most likely have had eyes firmly fixed on the championship from the outset of the present season and most pundits would suggest the ‘Blues’ are well enough equipped to mount a serious challenge.
They will include more than a few who have become as household names in the Saffron scene with such as CJ Mc Gourty, Michael Pollock, Andrew Mc Clean, Terry O’ Neill, Kevin Niblock as well as the Burke brothers, Sean and Conor and Chris Kerr included in a panel weighed down with championship medals gained in county, provincial, and national fare.
Although the Bannsider’s may not be at the forefront of the fancied sides in the quest for the holy grail of the senior title Jude Donnelly’s well drilled outfit are quite capable of causing an upset.
The Portglenone men have a strong panel at their disposal and backboned by such as Niall Mc Keever, Dermot Mc Aleese, Ciaran Mc Kenna, BJ Donnelly, as well as the Delargy clan, Niall, Ronan, Conaill and Shane they will not enter the fray without a chance.
Sunday 23rd September
St John’s v St Teresa’s at Sarsfield’s (2.00pm)
The Johnnies lost out to the Hannahstown men in last year’s decider and under the tutelage of former player Gearoid Adams this term the Corrigan men have been fully focused on a path which will take them a step further this time around.
The Corrigan men have had a good league campaign and will conclude in the top four but this meeting with the Glen road men in the opening phase of championship has been in focus from season’s outset.
Patrick Mc Bride and Matthew Fitzpatrick who have been cast in lead roles in the Saffron this term will possibly lead the charge of the blue and white in a line out which will also include, Aaron Douglas, Michael Dudley, Simon Mc Crory, Brian ‘Bam’ Neeson well as the Johnston, and Hannigan brothers, Ciaran, Conor, Ross and Jack.
St Teresa’s have not made an impact in the top division for a while, but the Glen Road based side has been mixing it with the best for quite a time and are more than capable of causing upset.
They were not troubled to pass their preliminary round test against Glenavy but in the event such came at a cost as an injury to Stephen Carey in that one means an important cog in the wheel will be missing in action in this one.
The Glen Road men will enter the fray as outsiders but with Philly Maguire, Paul Mc Goldrick, the Mallon brothers, Matthew and Conor and the Mc Canns, Niall and Darren putting their shoulder to the wheel they are certain to give it a lash.
Erin’s Own Cargin v Lamh Dhearg (holders) at Creggan (4.30pm)
This last quarter final affair may well be a case of reserving the ‘best to last’ as the current county champions line out against the 2016 holders with Hannahstown based Lamh Dhearg facing the challenge of Erin’s Own Cargin in a pairing which should attract a bumper attendance to the Staffordstown Road venue.
The Lamh’s have not made a big impact in league fare this term and indeed did fall to a heavy defeat when the Toome men visited Hannahstown several weeks ago, but their championship preliminary round in which they brushed aside the challenge of Aghagallon underlined the fact that the ‘Red Hands’ are fit and raring to go in defence of their title.
Both Conor Murray and Domnaill Nugent who played lead roles in the success of 2017 will not be included this time but the Hannahstown men will call on the services of such as Paddy Cunningham, John Finnucane, Ben Rice, Michael Herron, Darren Lynch, Pearce Fitzsimmons and Ryan Murray and they are certain to make a bold bid.
Cargin have proved a trifle enigmatic in league fare this term but the Toome men may well have had championship on their mind since the outset.
Damien Cassidy has assumed the reins at the shore road this term but the former All Ireland medalist has been hindered in preparation in a lengthy injury list with several regulars set to sit out this one.
Cargin do have a healthy panel however and the experience of players such as Michael Mc Cann, Justin Crozier, Kevin Mc Shane, James Laverty, Kieran Close, and Tomas Mc Cann together with such emerging talented individuals like Jamie Gribbin, Michael Clarke, and Ciaran Bradley may well make a bold bid to reach the next phase.