Ulster Junior Hurling Club Championship
St. Eunan’s Letterkenny v Gort na Mona
Referee: Aidan Ferguson
Gort na Mona make the journey to Letterkenny on Sunday as they begin their Ulster Junior Club championship campaign and it is a game the Antrim champions look capable of winning. The Turf Lodge side have had a great season in Antrim, winning division 3 of the All County league before going on to complete the double with a championship win.
The Gorts began their championship campaign with a quarter-final win over Con Magees, Glenravel. The favourites Gort na Mona progressed to the last four with 12 points to spare over Con Magees in Ahoghill. 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 Dessie 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 in 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.
In the semi-final Gort na Mona faced what looked like a stiff challenge when they were drawn against St. Mary’s Rasharkin under the floodlights at Quinn Park. A devastating scoring spell, which yielded four goals in as many minutes midway through the first half, paved the way for Gort na Mona to seal a place in the Junior Hurling Championship final with St Paul’s. The Turf Lodge side had 13 points to spare over Rasharkin at the end of the hour, thanks largely to a fantastic display from Dessie McClean. The former county man helped himself to 3-7, his three goals all coming in that four minute onslaught in the first half.
Patrick McCaffrey and substitute Christopher McErlean added the other goals for the Gorts who put in a hugely impressive and controlled display throughout.
On the other side of the draw, St. Paul’s, who had finished second to Gort na Mona in the league were turning in some impressive performances of their own and wins over St. Teresa’s in the quarter-final and a great semi-final comeback against Shane O’Neill’s, Glenarm suggested that they would give the Turf Lodge side their fill of it in the Antrim decider.
Junior Hurling Championship final
Gort na Mona 0-20 St. Paul’s 0-14
Dessie McClean scored 0-12 as Gort na Mona proved too good in the end for a battling St. Paul’s side who kept going right until the final whistle. The former county man gave an outstanding exhibition of free taking, landing at least four from beyond 70 meters and punished every foul that the opposition conceded.
McClean got the Turf Lodge men off the mark from a free in the opening minute before Sean O’Carroll equalised with a point from play with two minutes on the clock. O’Carroll fired over when he might have had a goal but it was Gort na Mona who went on to dominate the opening exchanges.
St. Paul’s staged a strong second half comeback but in the end they had no answer to the superior teamwork and scoring power of Gort na Mona who had six points to spare at the final whistle.
They were solid in defence where keeper Padraig Fryer, Niall Henry, Padraig McHugh and Mark Rea excelled. Patrick McCaffery and Declan Hughes dominated at mid-field while Dessie McClean and Thomas McCaffery were superb in a sharp attack.
What of St. Eunan’s ?
Gort na Mona’s opponents on Sunday, St. Eunana’s actually played in the Donegal senior championship and were beat in the final by Setanta.
Setanta defeated the Letterkenny side by 3-13 to 0-13 at O’Donnell Park. The Cathedral Town side opened the scoring through Conor O’Donnell and after 14 minutes led by 0-5 to 0-3.
But Setanta came back into the game and a goal by Mark Devine enabled them to lead by 1-10 to 0-9 at the break. Declan Coulter got a second goal for Setanta and a third goal from Devine put them 3-10 to 0-12 ahead inside the third quarter. The men from the Cross finished strongly and won by nine points.
St. Eunan’s should not be taken lightly. Setanta have been a major force in Donegal hurling for many years and despite that defeat St. Eunan’s acquitted themselves well and with home advantage will fancy their chances against the Antrim champions.
If Gort na Mona can produce anything like their best form they have nothing to fear however and Dessie McClean, Patrick and Tomas McCaffrey, Martin Ward, Darren Boyd and Conor McCann should have too much firepower and knowhow for the Donegal side.