All Ireland Intermediate Football club semi-final
St. Enda’s (Antrim) v An Spideal (Galway)
The hard work has been done, nothing left to chance and now it’s down to 60 plus minutes of hard work at Pairc Tailteann and a meeting with Galway and Connaught champions, An Spideal who stand between the Antrim champions and a place in the All Ireland Intermediate club final.
Following their Ulster success back at the beginning of December Frank Fitzsimmons and his backroom team of Pat Hughes and Thomas McNulty have kept their side busy as they have tried to manage the long period between Ulster success and Sunday’s game and they have had them down to the beach at Waterfoot for a number of training sessions just to freshen things up.
The Glengormley club spent a weekend in Donegal recently where they played a challenge game against Gaoth Dobhair and ‘Fitsy’ was pleased at the level of performance against the Ulster Senior club champions.
St. Enda’s also played a challenge against Queen’s last week and the side are in rude health by all accounts and looking forward to the challenge that An Spideal are likely to pose on Sunday.
HOW THEY GOT THERE
A first county Intermediate title followed by a historic victory on the Provincial trail and the show goes on as they turn their attentions to Sunday and an All Ireland semi-final appointment with An Spideal and a visit to Pairc Tailteann.
The Antrim champions will line out against their counterparts from Galway at Navan and who would bet against Frank Fitzsimmons’s charges continuing on their amazing journey.
The Hightown club having recruited Frank Fitzsimmons and Pat Hughes to take charge of their squad gained ultimate reward and after a fair league campaign and a far from impressive win over St Paul’s in the opening round of the Antrim championship the Hightown men set off on their unforgettable championship journey.
Fitzsimmons with a youthful panel at his disposal backboned by the minor champions of a couple of years earlier had little difficulty in dealing with Michael Davitt’s on a 5-17 to 0-07 scoreline next time out and their journey was gaining momentum.
Gort na Mona were catching the eye on the other side of the draw, and when they made the Intermediate decider with a 2-09 to 0-13 win over All Saint’s and St Enda’s defeated Moneyglass 2-10 to 1-04 in the other semi-final the scene was set for what many predicted would be the Hightown men’s toughest test to date.
The Intermediate final was, as anticipated a close affair but St Enda’s showed that little bit of extra class securing the tile on a 0-15 to 1-07 verdict to open the door to Ulster for the first time in their history.
Monaghan representatives Doohamalet were their opponents as they returned to Corrigan Park, scene of their first ever Antrim win so they were back on familiar ground but cast as outsiders.
The Hightown men were well prepared for their Ulster debut and an early Kristian Healy goal led to a 1-07 to 1-02 interval advantage but the experienced Farney men came back strongly in the second half.
St Enda’s finished strongly however and a 52nd minute Ruairi Scott fisted major saw them over the winning line and into the semi-final and a meeting with Tyrone champions Tattyreagh.
The Red Hand champions had proved too strong for St Peter’s of Armagh in their quarter-final and assumed the role of favourites but St. Enda’s were unfazed.
A late James Darcy goal looked to have handed the initiative to the Tyrone champions but in a dramatic last few minutes it was late replacement Michael Morgan’s contribution which clinched the verdict for the Antrim men.
Morgan was sent into the fray in place of Ethan Gibson who had received a black card and when sent away by Odhran Eastwood the former clipped the leather between to posts to see St Enda’s move ahead. Morgan followed with another shortly after and the Hightown men were on their way to an Ulster final.
Cavan representatives Mullahoran provided the opposition for the history seeking St Enda’s in the final as the Hightown men sought to be the first team from the Saffron County to claim an Ulster Intermediate football title and this was to prove another close affair with the result in doubt right to conclusion.
The pivotal moment arrived with around seven minutes on the clock and only a point between the sides when Cormac O’Reilly’s rasper evaded the hands of the St Enda’s net minder Paddy Flood only to find the crossbar and when the clearance reached Joe Maskey the mid-fielder raced away to plant the leather in the net at the other end.
The Antrim champs had done enough and when the long blast arrived they held a 2-11 to 1-10 advantage and a first Provincial Intermediate title was theirs.
WHO WILL PLAY
At the time of writing no team has been announced but is unlikely to show too many changes from the one that defeated Mullahoran in the Ulster decider. Paddy Flood has been a constant in the St. Enda’s goals and Michael McNamee and James McAuley are likely to be the anchor men in a St. Enda’s defence who have conceded little on their journey to date.
Joe Maskey was a colossus at mid-field against the Cavan men and has been outstanding all year while in attack the Hightown side have a rich array of talent.
Peter Healy and his brother Kristian, Odhran Eastwood, Ruairi Scott, Ethan Gibson and Eoin Nagle are all potential match winners on their day and if they click as a unit then they are capable of presenting the An Spideal defence with a headache.
The action gets under way at 2.00 in Navan and the Saffron Gael will be there to cover the game and I’m predicting another St. Enda’s victory and a place in the final for Frank Fitzsimmon’s side.
Naomh Éanna v Mullahoran: Paddy Flood; Killian Jennings, Mick McNamee, Diarmuid McNulty; Conan Lyttle, James McAuley, Conor McAuley; Ryan Kennedy, Joe Maskey; Peter Healy, Ruairi Scott, Kristian Healy; Ethan Gibson, Odhran Eastwood, Eoin Nagle.
Subs: Ciaran O’Neill for R Kennedy (26); Damien Gault for E Gibson (60)
Scorers for Naomh Éanna: Odhran Eastwood 0-4 (3 f’s); Kristian Healy 1-1; Eoin Nagle 0-3; Joe Maskey 1-00; Ruairi Scott 0-2; Conan Lyttle 0-1