Last quarter-final down for decision as St. Dympna’s face Clann Eireann

Bank of Ireland-Paddy McLarnon Cup

Ulster U21 Club Football Tournament

St Dympnas, Dromore GAC (Tyrone) vs Clann Éireann GAC, Lurgan (Armagh)

Sunday January 27

Throw in: 2pm

The last quarter-final of the Paddy McLarnon Cup is down for decision at Páirc Chiceam on Sunday afternoon where St Dympnas, Dromore take on a Clann Eireann team who have already a preliminary round win under their belts this year. 

The Dromore side have had to wait for two weeks  before making their first appearance in this year’s competition with no games last week owing to Sigerson commitments elsewhere.  Indeed it has been nine months since St. Dympna’s completed their Tyrone success and manager Paddy Montague told us how they had dealt with this less an ideal preparation. “The Tyrone U21 final was back in 19th April.  It’s far from ideal but a lot of the lads have been involved with the senior set up anyway so we’ve been together as a group all the while.

“We got together about three weeks before Christmas.  The lads needed a couple of weeks after the senior league and championship was over but we’ve been together since before Christmas and focussing on this.  We tried to get a few challenge games in, we played Tyrone U20’s in what was a really good game but we’ve kept everything mostly in-house.

“We have a few injuries coming into the game.  Odhran Sludden is definitely out, he did his cruciate ligaments before Christmas and Oran Rafferty pulled his quad.  Jack McShane was carrying a knock as well but this weekend’s game might come too soon for him.”

Dromore defeated Coalisland, Carrickmore and favourites Dungannon by seven in the Tyrone final but Montague tried to play down that success: “There was seven points between us on the day but the match was closer than the score line suggested.  Dungannon were probably favourites for the whole thing and we had to be at our best to get anything out of that game.

““We were up and watched Clann against St Eunan’s and there’s no doubt about it, they’re a very good side.  They’re strong and physical and will be very hard to break down.

“We know we’re coming into this game as underdogs but we’ll go out and give it our best shot.  This is a good group of lads who have a huge amount of character within them.  They never stop and never know when they’re beaten.” 

That Clann Eireann win came against St. Eunan’s Letterkenny with only a point separating the teams at the death in a low scoring game on the opening weekend of the tournament. 

On a day that certainly wasn’t conducive to good football with wind and rain making things difficult, the Lurgan side just did enough but their manager Donal McCarthy was happy with his sides attitude in a tough preliminary round contest: “We were up against a very good side.  There was nerves there, off course there was.  It was an Ulster championship match but I was very happy with how the lads approached the game and if they do the same again on Sunday, we’ll be happy.

“The time of year doesn’t lend to fast flowing football.  Against St Eunan’s the wind was blowing a gale and while the pitch was in great shape, the wind made it very difficult.

“The lads worked extremely hard.  It was a difficult game but they got over the line and that’s what counts in championship football. 

“Ulster football is often about a battle of character more than anything and our lads came out on top.”

Clann Eireann are a big, physical side and despite scoring only eight points on the day always looked to have an edge over a descent St. Eunan’s, Letterkenny side. The conditions certainly didn’t make score thaking easy but they did have five different scorers on the day.

Aodhan McConville top scored with 0-3 from play while Barry McCambridge’s performance earned him the Bank of Ireland man of the match award.  McCambridge is a cousin of Cushendall hurler, Ryan McCambridge and his father John a brother of former Ruairi Ogs, Ciaran and Conor.

Aodhan McCarthy was another who impressed on the day with an insatiable work rate and Conan O’Carroll caught the eye in a very solid Clann Eireann but they will probably have to improve their scoring ratio if they are to dismiss the Tyrone champions.

On the challenge of playing Dromore, their manager added: “We haven’t seen any of their matches but the lads know them through playing in the colleges and county set ups.  When you look at the scores they racked up in their six matches in the Tyrone championship, it makes for impressive reading.  We know they’ll be a tough opposition, any team that comes out of Tyrone will never be easy to defeat.  They will be a top class opposition and we’ll need to be on our game to reach the semi’s.”

Despite the Antrim v Derry NFL game in Belfast on the same day both sides are likely to bring a big support to Creggan on Sunday. Armagh v Tyrone games are always keenly contested and I’d expect Sunday’s game to be no different.

The extra game will help Clann Eireann and if they can bring their shooting boots on Sunday and cut out their big wide count from the last day then they can advance to the semi-final but Dromore are likely to push them all the way and I don’t expect there to be too much between the sides come Sunday evening.

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