Second Junior semi-final down for decision tonight

Junior Hurling Championship semi-final

Gort na Mona v St. Mary’s Rasharkin

Quinn Park Ballymena  Tonight (Wednesday 7-45)

The second of the Junior Hurling Championship semi-finals is down for decision tonight at Quinn Park Ballymena and if it proves as exciting as last week’s semi at the same venue then it will be well worth the admission money.

St. Paul’s came with a late surge to beat a Glenarm team who looked on their way to the final when they led 0-8 to 0-4 at half time and no doubt will have a few ‘spies’ at tonight’s clash between St. Mary’s Rasharkin and Gort na Mona.

Both tonight’s opponents came close to collecting Ulster Junior titles in recent years and after dipping their toes in the Intermediate waters have returned to the Junior grade and even at this stage will be setting their sights on another Ulster campaign.

The Belfast men will start tonight’s game as favourites by virtue of a strong division 3 campaign which saw them top the table and gain promotion to division 2 for next season. While the ‘Gorts’ were beating all before them to win promotion St. Mary’s enjoyed a steady if unspectacular league campaign but lost by five to Gort na Mona down at Dreen back in May.

Both sides have already had an outing in this year’s championship with Gort na Mona defeating Glenravel in Ahoghill and Rasharkin proving too strong for Junior B champions, Latharna Og at the same stage of the competition.

Championship favourites Gort na Mona progressed to the last four with 12 points to spare over Con Magees.  Despite a spirited challenge from the Glenravel men, Gort na Mona never really looked troubled over the hour in a comfortable afternoon’s work for the men from Turf Lodge.

A first half goal from Desi McClean and two in two minutes from substitute Christopher McErlean paved the way for the Gort victory.  McClean top scored for the Gorts with seven points in addition to his first half major but this victory was built around the strength of their half backs and midfield.  Padraig McHugh had a major influence throughout from centre half while Patrick McCaffrey and Declan Hughes went through a mountain of work to help the Gorts maintain a sense of control over this quarter-final.

Eleven points from Shane Hasson, and a man of the match performance from James Scally, was enough to see Rasharkin cruise their way through to the semi-final of the junior hurling championship.  The north Antrim men had 19 points to spare over Latharna Óg and despite a spirited start, the Junior B champions lost their way in the second half and ended the contest with 13 men.

It was an impressive attacking performance from the Dreen side, 15 of their 24 points coming from play with eight different scorers over the hour.  A tireless midfield duo of Emmet McFerran and Donagh Quigg and strong work rate of their half forwards allowed Rasharkin to enjoy a comfortable opener to their championship campaign.

Gort na Mona will represent a considerable step up for the South West side and will start tonight’s game as favourites by virtue of a high scoring and impressive league campaign but Rasharkin in the championship could be a different animal and they are likely to ask major questions of the South Antrim side and, like last week, this one could go right down to the wire.

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