Intermediate Hurling Final
Kickhams Creggan vs St Galls
Saturday September 29
Throw In: 1.45pm
Referee: Mark O’Neill (Glen Rovers, Armoy)
By Brendan McTaggart
The St Gall’s team who beat St Enda’s in the semi-final
And then there were two. For Creggan and St Gall’s, all roads lead to Hannahstown tomorrow afternoon as they compete for the right to be crowned Intermediate hurling champions. 60 minutes away from realising their dream and ensuring those dark nights training in wintry conditions, the countless drills and laps of floodlight pitches were all worthwhile.
Coming into the match, although the Intermediate championship has as ever, been ridiculously hard to call, both sides have come below the radar. Both have pedigree when it comes to the Intermediate grade yet when the experts gave their predictions, there wasn’t mant giving them a prayer. The Milltown Row Azurri won last won this championship in 2009 before claiming the Ulster crown. They came unstuck in the All-Ireland Final against St Lachtain’s of Kilkenny. Creggan’s exploits are a little more recent. All-Ireland junior champions in 2013, the Staffordstown Road side took the Intermediate crown two years later. An epic run in Ulster ensued and the Ulster crown made its way back to Creggan but they came up second best in a high quality match against Abbeyknockmoy at Páirc Tailteann in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Creggan marksman Conor McCann
Both sides had their up’s and down’s during the league. Creggan started well and looked on track to make the jump to Division Two. A midseason slump with injuries and the lure of greener grass in foreign lands took the wind from their promotion sails and another season beckons in Division Three. Carey Faughs and Clooney Gaels occupying the top two places and while Carey accounted for Clooney in the quarter-final of the Intermediate championship, they had no answer to Creggan last day out in Armoy. Despite being well beaten in the league, Creggan showed that league form for a dual club can mean very little come championship. The Kickhams put in an accomplished performance to ease past the Faughs with plenty to spare and not having to reach top gear to reach the decider.
St Gall’s, after a slow start to life in Division Two, are back at the top table of Antrim hurling for the 2019 season. The west Belfast men showing yet again that when they have all their players available, they are never far away. Last year they came as close as anyone to derailing Sarsfields charge to the Intermediate crown while this year they saw off the challenge of Gort na Mona and Naomh Éanna. despite a lack of discipline with three red cards, St Galls reached the semis despite a gallant Gort comeback. The Milltown Azurri were highly impressive against the Hightown Road men in the last round though, dispatching the perennial Intermediate challengers with plenty to spare to book their place in Saturday’s final.
St Gall’s Aodhan Gallagher
Who wins on Saturday? It’s not an easy call. Creggan have reached the final without leaving third gear. They stumbled past Rasharkin, doing what they needed to go to make the next round before playing better against Carey but certainly not firing on all cylinders. The optimistic Creggan supporter will be hopeful that they are timing their run to another Intermediate championship. They know they are capable of better, the question is will they be able to reach that level? The fact of it is, they will have to. St Galls are a team that know how to win. Whether it be with a size five or with ash in their hand, the Azurri have an ability to rise when the occasion requires. Both have matchwinners all over the pitch and will look forward to the open spaces the Lámh Dhearg pitch provides. Their footballing natures will play a part – winning dirty ball in the big ball game is key and it could come down to who wins those skirmishes for the sliotar in the rucks, makes better use of the sliotar and keeps the game simple. The Intermediate Championship rarely disappoints and Saturday promises to be another cracker. Don’t be surprised if we need another 60 minutes to determine the Antrim champions for 2018.
The Creggan team who beat Carey in the semi-final