Junior Championship Final Preview
Con Magee’s Glenravel v Naomh Padraig Lisburn
This year’s Junior Football Championship decider between Con Magee’s Glenravel and Naomh Padraig Lisburn could prove to be a real cracker. Both sides play an excellent brand of football and both are laced with players who have pace and skill in abundance.
Both Glenravel and Naomh Padraig play their football in division 3 and sit equal on points at the top of that division as they challenge Kickham’s Ardoyne in a three team race for the title with the top two of the three getting promotion.
The league for race honours has been confined to the back burner however in recent weeks as both sides set their sights on championship success and Sunday’s meeting at Glenavy is one likely to provide entertainment for the good crowd expected to attend.
Naomh Padraig were beaten finalists last year when they lost to a very strong Sarsfield’s side in the final at Lamh Dhearg but they showed a lot of potential in that one, going down by a couple of points in the end. This year Naomh Padraig had little difficulty in dealing with Eire Og in their opening game of this year’s championship winning convincingly at Cliftonville.
Naomh Padraig faced a much stiffer test when the met Ardoyne in the quarter-final at Woodlands but in a tight game they held their nerve and composure to beat the Kickham’s by two points.
It was back to the (plastic) at Woodlands for their semi-final encounter with a St. Agnes side who they had defeated on their way to last year’s final and the ‘Aggies’ weren’t expected to provide too stiff a test this time around.
St. Agnes turned in a battling second half performance however which saw Kieran McCoy’s side close the gap to three points as the clock ticked down but Naomh Padraig finished with late points from Josh McMullan and Francis McMeel to run out winners by five points.
St. Patrick’s are a useful side with Thomas Burns, Jack McMullan, Eoin Fay, Tighearnán Ómeallaigh, Tomas Fay, Ben McMullan and Francis McMeel all top class performers but the ace in their pack is Josh McMullan, a man Con Magee’s will have to keep a tight rein on if they are to win on Sunday.
The men from Antrim’s 10th Glen were Junior champions just a couple of years ago when they defeated St. Comgall’s in the final at Creggan but after playing Intermediate last year they have regraded and will be aiming for their second title in three years.
They have played a game less than the Lisburn side in this year’s journey to the final but have been mighty impressive in both those outings. They began their campaign with a resounding victory over Na Piarsaigh in Ballymena, winning that one 3-10 to 1-5 with Josh McKeown leading the way with 1-6 in the opening half.
In the semi-final the Con Magee’s were faced with what looked like a much greater challenge when they met O’Donnell’s at Sunday’s venue. The MacRory Park side played their football in division 2 this season but despite not winning a game, they made people sit up and take notice with a quarter-final win over Naomh Comghall, Antrim.
Con Magee’s took control of this semi-final from early on however at Chapel Hill and had it all wrapped up at the interval when they led by 11 points and there was to be no respite for the Whiterock Road side in the second half, the Con Magee’s running out winners by 25 points.
Declan Traynor was the man who did most of the damage against O’Donnell’s scoring 2-2 over the hour and causing endless problems with his strong running. Josh McKeown was again very much to the fore with 0-5 with the other two goals coming from Eoin McCusker and Michael Laverty as Glenravel ran out winners 4-20 to 0-7.
Paul McCurry and Niall Swann are likely to anchor a Glenravel defence where Ally McKeown and Ciaran O’Connor will need to be on top of their game. The hard working David Higgins should give them plenty of energy at mid-field while Kieran McKeown and Martin McCarry will complement Declan Traynor, Conor McNeill and Josh McKeown adding experience in attack.
Con Magee’s defeated Naomh Padraig at Kirkwood Park on the opening day of the season while the Lisburn men reversed that result when they visited Fr. Maginn Park in June so there doesn’t appear to be a lot between the sides.
Verdict: Much will depend on which side can hit top form on the day and this one is likely to be close but I give a tentative nod to Con Magee’s Glenravel.