Danske Bank Mclarnon Cup semi-final
St. Louis Ballymena v Red High Downpatrick
Tuesday 12th February 5pm in St Paul’s Lurgan
St. Louis Ballymena make a bid for a place in the final of the McLarnon Cup when they take on St. Patrick’s Downpatrick in Lurgan. The Ballymena College struggled in the early stages of the league competition but were restricted by the unavailability of a number of players through Mageean and club commitments.
Injury had also deprived them of one of their top performers, Eoghan Daly who had been out for a year following an operation but the All Saints man returned with Dunloy pair, Seaan Elliott and Anton McGrath to boost their quarter-final challenge against Our Lady’s Castleblaney a fortnight ago.
They went into that game as underdogs against the Monaghan side in the league stages but produced a battling performance to edge out their opponents in extra time.
St. Louis got off to the best possible start against Our Lady’s and goals from Aidan Scullion and Seaan Elliott in the opening quarter put them in a strong position and they led by five points at the half way mark.
Castleblaney staged a strong second half comeback and when they fired over the equaliser, six minutes into time added on they appeared to have wrestled control from the Kintullagh side.
The sides were level at 0-2 each after the first period of extra time but by this stage a dogged St. Louis had taken back control but they were dealt what looked like a fatal blow when play maker, Daly received a second yellow card early in the second half.
St. Louis quite simply refused to lie down however and a late point from James McDonnell proved the winning score and earned them a place in tomorrow’s semi-final.
Tomorrow’s opponents, Red High, Downpatrick have already recorded a win over the Ballymena side in the league stages when they ran out 3-13 to 2-9 winners and by virtue of that win they will go into tomorrow’s semi-final as favourites.
During their league campaign they had good wins over St. Patrick’s Keady and St. Louis but lost by the minimum to Our Lady’s & St. Patrick’s Knock so they are obviously a team with a lot of talent
Downpatrick had a derby win in their quarter-final and they showed a lot of character to come back from two points down against St Malachy’s Castlewellan with two minutes of injury-time already played.
However there was just about enough time for Ruairí O’Hare (free) and Peter McMullan to send the game into extra time. The Downpatrick side pushed on to win by two points in extra time and earn them a place in tomorrow’s semi-final.
Niall Laverty, Ruairí O’Hare, Eoin Rooney and goalie Eoin Maginn were their top performers on the day while Tim Prenter, son of former Antrim footballer, Kieran Prenter hit 1-2, the goal coming in the second period of extra time and he is a player the Ballymena side will need to keep a tight eye on.
St. Louis have quite a bit of talent at their disposal as well with Seaan Elliott hitting 1-7 against Our Lady’s Castleblaney and Eoghan McGrath, Peter Cullen, Conor Stewart and Aidan Scullion all potential match winners.
Eoghan Daly is making his way back to match fitness but despite this he has the potential to sway the balance in favour of the Kintullagh side. The game takes on extra significance for both sides and the winners will qualify for a place in the semi-final of the All-Ireland semi-finals of the Masita Paddy Drummond Cup.
At the back, Ballymena gave away too many frees last day out with 13 of Castleblaney’s 18 scores coming from the placed ball and it’s something they will need to eradicate tomorrow if they are to be successful.
Red High had a similar problem in their semi-final with 0-10 of Castlewellan’s 21-15 coming from frees and indeed the result might well hinge on a shootout between Elliott for the Ballymena side and Prenter for Red High
The other McLarnon semi-finalists, Scoileanna Inis Eoghain and Cathair Dhoire are amalgamated sides and an All-Ireland Schools’ Council rule prohibits them from representing a province so whoever wins tomorrow’s semi-final will be Ulster representatives in the All-Ireland regardless of what happens in the final in the Athletic Grounds on St. Patrick’s Day.
St Louis v Castleblaney: C Brennan, A McGrath, E McCusker, C McQuillan, J McDonald (0-1), C Scullion, P Ferris, C Stewart (0-2), P Cullen (0-2), O Connolly, S Elliot (1-8, 0-7 frees), E McGrath, A Scullion (1-0), E Daly, D Dobbin
Subs: R McKillop for O Connolly (39), O McAtammey for P Cullen (67)
Red High Team announced: Eoin Maginn, Jack Harbinson, Eoin Rooney, Lorcan Guiness, Peter McMullan, Ronan Murphy, Brandon Boyd, Ciaran Watson, Ruairi O’Hare, Niall Laverty, Oran Cunningham, Tom Smyth, Tim Prenter, Ronan Connor, Tom Savage