There’s some big games of hurling in Antrim this weekend and while most of the attention will be on the Antrim Senior and Minor finals in Ballycastle there are two Ulster games involving Antrim teams at Owen Beg and I’m predicting success for both Emmet’s Cushendun and St. Gall’s.
Ulster Junior Club hurling semi-final
Emmet’s Cushendun v Sean Treacey’s 12-30 Owenbeg
Emmet’s Cushendun head to Owenbeg on Sunday where they take on Armagh junior champions Sean Treacey’s of Lurgan and the Antrim Champions look to be in with a great chance of advancing to the final.
Having won their first Antrim junior championship a couple of weeks ago where they defeated St. Paul’s in the final the Emmet’s made an impressive Ulster debut against Na Magha of Derry in the Ulster quarter-final at Quinn Park, Ballymena beating the Steelstown outfit, 2-16 to 0-10.
Na Magha had been beaten Ulster Junior club finalists on three occasions recently and were expected to provide a stiff test for an Emmet’s side who were appearing in their first Ulster encounter at this level.
In truth the Derry champions never looked like troubling a slick moving Cushendun side who took control from early in the game and had put the result to bed by half time when they led 2-9 to 0-3 at the short whistle.
Cushendun started brightly with Conor McHugh excellent from frees and the North Antrim side went on to dominate the first half with Sean Hamilton, Aidan Corbett and Mark Scally giving nothing away in defence and Na Maha having to work overtime for scores.
McHugh top scored with 0-9 and goals from Donal O’Hara and James Morgan saw them dominate proceedings and they never looked like being headed. The North Antrim men played some excellent hurling and a repeat of that form should be enough to see them gain a place in the final.
Sean Tracey’s had two points to spare over Mulahoran St. Joseph’s of Cavan and certainly can’t be taken lightly but I expect the Emmet’s to progress with something to spare and set up a final meeting with the winners of Clunduff and Castleblaney.
Joe McDaniel raises the Antrim IHC cup after his side defeated Creggan in the final and will be aiming to lead his side into an Ulster final when they face Swatragh of Derry in the semi-final at Owen Beg on Sunday.
Intermediate Hurling semi-final
St. Gall’s v Swatragh (Derry) Owenbeg 2-30
St. Gall’s have run into a rich vein of form after a poor start to the season where they lost heavily to Glen Rovers, Armoy, St. Brigid’s Cloughmills and Tir na nOg, Randalstown in their opening three games in the ACHL division 2. On league day four they squeezed past Oisin Glenariffe but next time out lost heavily again to eventual league winners, McQuillan’s Ballycastle.
Hardly the sort of form that would have suggested they would be contenders for the IHC but as their walking wounded slowly returned they put together an amazing run of results, beating St. Enda’s,(twice) Sarsfields, Armoy, Cloughmills and Glenariffe (twice) to gain promotion as runners up to Ballycastle.
St. Gall’s carried that good form into the Intermediate championship with wins over Gort na Mona, Glenariffe and St. Enda’s before going on to defeat a very good Kickham’s Creggan in the final. They are a strong and experienced side backboned by team captain Joe McDaniels at full-back.
The Milltown side are previous Ulster winners back in 2009 and on that occasion they went on to reach an All Ireland. They began their Ulster campaign with a win over Lisbellaw of Fermanagh but didn’t get it all their own way against the Fermanagh champions.
The Milltown Row men eventually pulled away to win by six points with CJ McGourty top scoring with 0-8 and Niall O’Neill, Karl Stewart, Kieran McGourty, Sean McAreavey and Mark Napier leading the way.
Unfortunately they will be without CJ McGourty for the final, CJ having received a red card but even without their talisman forward I would expect St. Gall’s to have enough in reserve to advance. Swatragh are a bit of an unknown quantity with the Intermediate competition in Derry shared by Eoghan Rua and Na Magha recently but they have had a number of excellent minor sides in recent years.
Again this one could be close but St. Gall’s greater experience should give them the edge and I expect them to advance to a final meeting with the winners of Keady Lamh Dhearg and Liatroim of Down.