Stiff test ahead for St. Gall’s against experienced Keady side

Ulster Intermediate championship hurling final preview

St. Gall’s v Keady Lamh Dhearg

St. Gall’s are likely to face a stiff challenge when they take oh Keady Lamh Dhearg in this Sunday’s Ulster Intermediate hurling championship final at Pairc Esler Newry. The Milltown Row side looked to be heading out of the competition at the semi-final stage when they trailed,Davitt’s, Swatragh by a point as the game headed into injury time, a fortnight ago at Owen Beg.

Tomas O’Ciarain held his nerve when pointing an injury time free to send that game into extra time and the Belfast lads pushed on to win by five points thanks to a goal in the second half by CJ McGourty

During that extra time period the greater experience and craft of the Milltown Row side saw them gain control and McGourty’s goal finally killed off the challenge of a brave Swatragh side.

St. Gall’s looked in control at half-time as Conor Burke’s goal helped them to a deserved 1-11 to 0-7 lead at the interval.

However, Swatragh took the game to their opponents with five unanswered points with the brilliant Eoghan O’Kane proving a handful while Ruairi Convery was deadly accurate from the placed ball as they reeled in the Antrim champions.

O’Kane and Karl Stewart exchanged goals for their sides and a late major from Fintan McGurk looked to have sealed a dramatic one-point win for the Derry side, but Tomás Ó Ciarain late pointed free sent the game into time added on.

St. Gall’s have put a poor start in the ACHL division 2 behind to hit an unbeaten run and finish runners up to Ballycastle to gain a place in division 1 for next season but they were pushed to the wire in the Antrim Intermediate championship final against division 3 side Creggan.

Creggan led 0-10 to 0-4 after 25 minutes and had controlled much of the opening half but a late Jackson McGreevey goal kept them in touch at the break. The Milltown side were still three in arrears after 42 minutes.

They finished strongly however to win by two points in the end before going on to beat Lisbellaw of Fermanagh in the Ulster quarter-final. The sides were level at the break but second half goals from Sean McAreavy and Mark Napier saw them win by six points in the end.

St. Gall’s have mixed the good with the bad this year, dominating for periods in all their championship games but switching off at other times and allowing the opposition to gain control.

Manager Mickey Culbert will certainly not be happy with this aspect of their game as they go forward to meet an experienced Lamh Dhearg side at Pairc Esler on Sunday and it is something I’m sure he will have addressed and work on in the last fortnight.

WHAT OF LAMH DHEARG?

The Keady side were impressive in their semi-final win over Liatroim of Down and are sure to pose questions for the Antrim champions on a Pairc Esler pitch that could be heavy following this week’s rain.

The Armagh champions had 11 points to spare over the Down men at Corrigan Park. Paul Breen (2-1) and John Corvan were the goal scorers as they went on to win 3-14 to 0-12 with Paul McCormack (0-3) and Conor Corvan (0-7) their other major scorers.

Like St. Gall’s the Keady men went 16 minutes at the start of the second half without scoring and the team that can address  their respective ‘switch off’ period best can push on to take the title. Both sides are laced with talented players with Paul McCormack, Conor Corvan Paul Breen and John Corvan all capable of pushing St. Gall’s all the way.

Indeed in what could be another tight contest, the free taking of CJ McGourty for St. Gall’s and Conor Corovan for Lamh Dhearg could well prove to be the difference, McGourty often the difference for the Milltown Row men in a tight game.

St. Gall’s though have come through stiffer tests this year on the way to Sunday’s final and have proved when the chips are down they can dig out a win and with Joe McDaniel, Niall O’Neill, Justin McGreevey, Karl Stewart, Tomas O’Ciarain and the mercurial CJ McGourty on board they should have enough to see them through.

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