No room for error as Championship reaches the business end of the season

 

Antrim’s Intermediate football championship has reached the semi-final stages and this weekend division 1 side, St. Enda’s will go head to head with a Moneyglass side who have been in great form recently while Gort na Mona take on All Saints in the other semi-final with the Turf Lodge side starting as strong favourites in this one.

St. Enda’s v St. Ergnat’s Sunday 2-00 (Lamh Dhearg)

St. Enda’s go into this one as favourites by virtue of the fact that they have played their football in division 1 this season following promotion from division 2 last year and they have had a successful season in the top division recording wins over Erin’s Own Cargin, Roger Casement’s, Ahoghill and St. Joseph’s Glenavy and running Creggan to a point.

In the Intermediate Championship St. Enda’s have had a fairly straight forward passage to Sunday’s semi-final beating St. Paul’s by 1-8 to 1-4 in their opening game before defeating Davitt’s by a massive 25 points in the quarter-final at Ahoghill.

That win doesn’t really tell us a lot about the Glengormley men. They had matters more or less wrapped up at half time and the game descended into something of a farce in the second half when Davitt’s lost four players to double yellow cards.

Still St. Enda’s did everything that was asked of them. They moved the ball around confidently and hit some great scores. They are a superbly fit side and under manager Frank Fitzsimmons they finished second in division 1B of the All County league after the split.

They have an experienced keeper in Paddy Flood with Michael McNamee, Killian Jennings and James McAuley anchoring a strong defence. Joe Maskey is an excellent fielder of the ball at mid-field and has an experienced colleague in Philly Curran. In attack the Hightown side have an abundance of attacking threat with Ruairi Scott, Odhran Eastwood, Peter Healey, Eoin Nagle and Kristen Healey all potential match winners on their day.

If my preview to date suggests that this is something of a formality for the Glengormley side then nothing could be further from the truth. St. Ergnat’s are a formidable side and seem to have run into a rich vein of form just at the right time for the championship.

They defeated high riding division 2 neighbours, Tir na nOg in their opening game of this year’s championship and after a low scoring and forgettable opening half at Creggan they came strong after the break to defeat the Whitehill side by four points.

Kevin ‘Kindo’ Marron was introduced from the bench that day and turned the game in his side’s favour with a fine individual goal and Marron was again to the fore in their quarter-final win over Sarsfield’s at Corrigan.

This time ‘Kindo’ started the game and sent his side on their way with an early goal and Niall Jackman’s side have every reason to go into Sunday’s meeting with St. Enda’s in confident mood. They are a strong and well balanced outfit, led by county player Colm Duffin who has been a revelation since being moved to mid-field and he is one of four brothers on the St. Ergnat’s panel.

Tiernan Duffin is likely to start at full-back while brothers Seanachain and Feargal were in the half-forward line against the ‘Paddies’. Mark Carey is a competent keeper while Padraig Mackle, Conor Boyd,  Patrick McCormick, Gavin Murray, Liam Brady and Dermot McErlean are others who could swing this one in the direction of the Marrion Hill side.

Verdict: St. Enda’s to edge it by a couple of points but I won’t be surprised if St. Ergnat’s prove me wrongPeople1st copy-All Saints

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Gort na Mona v All Saints Saturday 2-00 (Ahoghill)

Gort na Mona are back at Clooney on Saturday after defeating Dunloy in the quart-final as recently as Tuesday night. I didn’t get to that game but my colleagues in the Saffron Gael were there and by all accounts it was a real titanic struggle with Dermott McVeigh’s goal in injury time snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

In the previous round Gort na Mona turned in a great performance to blow away a fancied St. James Aldergrove and I left the Bear Pit that day convinced that it was going to take a good side to beat the Turf Lodge men.

They are a big physical team but play some excellent football and are capable of getting goals at vital times in any game as demonstrated against Dunloy. Thomas McCaffrey is an experienced keeper while Tommy McGoran, Gary Doyle, Paul Conlon, Chris Carson, Dermott McVeigh, Patrick McCaffrey, Padraig McHugh and Dessie McClean are the men likely to lead the Gort’s charge for a place in the final.

The Belfast side hit an impressive 2-16 against the Crumlin men and over ran St. James in the second half and All Saints will have a tuff task in their hands if they are to contain them.

All Saints have had only one outing in this year’s championship where they finally overcame one of their championship bogey sides, St. Mary’s Rasharkin but not before getting a late scare from the boys from Dreen.

The Ballymena side got off to a perfect start when the sides met in Creggan with goals from Shay O’Brien and Connell Lemon in the opening five minutes and a point from Rory McVeigh to take an early seven point lead.

Slowly though Rasharkin began to play their way back into the game and points from Eamon McNeill and Enda McFerran saw them draw level with ten minutes remaining. All Saints dug deep however and a late point from Michael McCarry saw them over the line, two points to the good.

An injury to the influential Ciaran McGarry saw him limp out of the contest late in the second half and Saturday may come too soon for the strong running half back while county player, Paddy McAleer has moved abroad and will be badly missed.

The return of Peter ‘Pizza’ McReynolds has provided a useful replacement and he is likely to again partner Sean McVeigh at mid-field. Peter McNicholl, Emmet Killough, Joe Rafferty, Connell Lemon, Michael McCarry and Rory McVeigh bring a fair degree of experience to an All Saints side while youngsters, Kavan Keenan, Eoin Campbell and Shay O’Brien were all to the fore last day out.

Verdict: Gort na Mona will start this one as firm favourites but if All Saints can produce the performance they are capable of then there might not be too much in it.Ashgrove ad copy

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