The Senior football championship semi-finals top the bill in Antrim this weekend with the semi-finals of the Intermediate and the Junior final also down for decision.
Three of last year’s four semi-finalists have reached this years semi-finals with holders Lamh Dhearg missing from this weekend’s shake up following defeat to Cargin last weekend
The senior competition will take centre stage as old rivals Cargin and St Gall’s cross swords at Creggan on Saturday with St John’s and Creggan contesting the other semi-final in Glenavy.
Cargin and St Gall’s had originally been fixed for Corrigan but after a time issue intervened the CCC decided to reschedule to the Staffordstown road ground.
Sat 6th October
Senior Football Championship (semi-final) at Creggan 4.30pm
Erin’s Own Cargin v St Gall’s
This opening semi-final brings together old rivals as Cargin line out against St Gall’s in what looks an intriguing contest which is certain to attract a big attendance to the pristine Staffordstown Road arena.
St Gall’s who are on the trail of their 20th domestic title have only been interrupted in their domination of the Antrim title since the start of the new millennium by the intervention of the Toome men in 2006 and it was another eight years as champions before they gave way to Cargin again.
Three years have passed since St Gall’s have ascended the championship podium and indeed some have passed opinion that the former All Ireland club champions were on the wane but more than a few have paused to reconsider such this term with form to date.
Sean Kelly, having assumed the role of player manager has seen resurgence within the ranks and having impressed in a positive league campaign St Gall’s disposed of the challenge posed by Casement’s in the championship quarter final.
Michael Pollock was the star of the show in that 3-11 to 1-08 victory march over the Bannsider’s but such as Andrew Mc Clean, Jackson Mc Greevey, Kevin Niblock, Aodhan Gallagher, Niall O’ Neill and player manager Kelly, who have gained experience aplenty, had shoulders firmly to the wheel while new kids on the block, Eoghan Mc Cabe and Conor Stinton played their part.
Cargin, under the guiding hand of Damien Cassidy have took a time to settle this term although up there in contention for the league for most of the season. The Toome men have failed to recapture the league title and have lost out twice to St Gall’s home, and away in the campaign to date.
The Erin’s Own men have hinted at improvement in the championship however and after a draw with reigning champions Lamh Dhearg in the quarter final they came good in the replay to secure a six point win, 0-11 to 0-05 despite being reduced in number in the second period.
Cargin have struggled with a lengthy long term injury list this season but word from the Toome camp would suggest that a full complement is back in harness and available for selection for Saturday’s semi-final.
Michael McCann has impressed this term with ‘old hands’ Tony Scullion, Justin Crozier, Tomas McCann, James Laverty, Gerard McCann and Michael Magill continuing to do the business while youngsters like Jamie Gribbin, Michael Clarke, Ciaran Bradley and Kevin Mc Shane have added fresh legs and they look to be hitting a bit of form just at the right time. Cargin will welcome the return of Marty Kane, John Carron, and Kevin ‘Kobo’ O’ Boyle back after injury and manager Cassidy may have a welcome selection headache.
Sunday 7th October
Senior Football Championship (semi-final) at Glenavy 4.30pm
St John’s v Kickham’s Creggan
Creggan are no doubt the form team of the season and following an excellent league campaign with the division one title all but assured to sit alongside the O’Cahan Cup as well as the reserve title the Kickham’s men will travel up to Glenavy for this latest assignment, as they attempt to add a Senior Championship.
Kevin Madden’s charges will be attempting to bridge a 64 year gap and some would suggest that they may well be on the way to achieve such aspirations.
Ahoghill, who made the Creggan men work hard in last year’s championship proved no match for Madden’s men in their opening game but Sunday is certainly a much bigger challenge as they take on St John’s.
The return to action of the long term injured Martin Johnston will most certainly be welcomed within the ranks of a Creggan side in which his sibling Ricki, the McCanns, Thomas, Conor, Ruairi, Odhran Mc Larnon, Fintan Burke, Liam Quinn, and the Small brothers, Kevin and Conor will figure prominently.
The Creggan squad may well be short on championship ‘know how’ but this year they look well equipped to make an impact.
St John’s are seasoned championship campaigners having won the MacNamee Cup on 24 occasions, but despite coming close on a few occasions they have not won it the since defeating Cargin in the 1998 final.
The Johnnies came mighty close to ending that long gap last year but despite a titanic effort they lost out to Lamh Dhearg in last year’s final.
Gearoid Adams has picked up the reins again at Corrigan this term and although they did fare well in the league, championship was the focus as they sought to erase the painful memories of that 2017 reversal.
Patrick McBride and Matt Fitzpatrick are likely to lead the Johnnies charge with Brian ‘Bam’ Neeson, Michael Dudley, Aaron Douglas, Simon McCrory, and the Johnston brothers, Conor and Ciaran, as well as the Hannigans, Ross and Jack to the fore.