Ulster Junior Hurling Club championship semi-final
Saturday 2-30 Ballela
Gort na Mona make the journey to Ballela, outside Banbridge tomorrow where they face Newry Shamrocks in the semi-final of the Ulster Junior Hurling club championship. Both sides had narrow wins in their respective quarter-final and tomorrow’s semi-final could be another close affair.
The Down champions had a goal to spare against Sean Tracey’s of Lurgan in Crossmaglen on the 19th October while on the same day Gort na Mona edged past St. Eunan’s Letterkenny in a tight contest in Letterkenny.
The Antrim champions have been in fine form this year, winning both the division 3 league and Junior Championship and that stiff test against St. Eunan’s should stand them in good stead as they take on the Down champions tomorrow in Ballela.
A point from a Dessie McClean free with the final puc of the game saw Gort na Móna book a place in Saturday’s semi-final at the expense of the Donegal champions. The Turf Lodge men led by two points (1-9 to 1-7) at the end of a keenly contested first half but St. Eunan’s came strong in the second half and more than matched the Antrim champions and had moved two points clear in the closing minutes. The Gorts fought back to level entering injury time and when Darren Boyd pointed them in front it seemed that they had done enough to claim the win. However St Eunan’s captain Conor O’Grady stepped up to the mark to hit the equaliser on 62 minutes and extra time looked like the most likely outcome until Dessie McClean stepped up to fire over the winner and send the Gorts fans into raptures.
Former Antrim player, McClean has been in great form this season and is the man that Gort na Mona will turn to for scores but he is only one of a number of top class players in the Turf Lodge side. Padraig McCaffrey, Padraig McHugh, Tomas McCaffery and Darren ‘Diesel’ Boyd are others who have caught the eye this year but Gort na Mona’s success has been built on solid team performances.
Newry Shamrocks advanced to tomorrow’s semi-final following a 1-13 to 0-13 victory over Sean Treacy’s.
Shamrocks raced into an early three-point lead in as many minutes, with Ruairi Campbell scoring two from play and Artie McGuinness adding to the scoreboard from a 45.
Sean Treacy’s responded with the next two points only for Newry Shamrocks to re-establish their three-point lead via scores from Eoin and Artie McGuinness.
Artie McGuinness’ 12th minute point was the last Shamrocks score of the first half as Sean Tracey’s staged a come-back.
Points from Danny Magee, Shay McStravick, and Joe McKeever saw matters all square at the break on five points apiece.
Sean Treacy’s made the better start to the second half, scoring five unanswered points in almost as many minutes to open up a 0-10 to 0-5 lead.
However Jordan Murphy opened the Shamrocks second half account with a goal and it was the score that reignited the Newry side’s challenge.
Joe McKeever knocked over a point to give Sean Treacy’s some breathing space after Murphy’s goal, but the tide was beginning to turn.
The Shamrocks scored the next three points of the game to level the score at 1-8 to 0-11, and while Danny Magee edged Sean Treacy’s back into a single point lead with a free, they had no answer for the late Shamrocks surge that was about to come.
The Down champions fired over four points in quick succession to gain a 1-12 to 0-12 lead with time quickly running out and Eoin McGuinness sealed the win with his fourth point of the day in the dying moments as Newry Shamrocks ran out 1-13 to 0-13 victors.
The men from Newry are likely to provide Gort na Mona with a stiff challenge tomorrow but Gort na Mona have always been able to respond this season when they are presented with a challenge and I expect them to advance to an Ulster final with Eogan Rua of Coleraine or Inniskeen of Monaghan awaiting the winners.