Premier Electrics-Paddy McLarnon Cup
Sunday 15th March, 12.30pm, at Kickhams GAC Creggan
St Eunan’s Letterkenny (Donegal) V St Canice’s GAC Dungiven (Derry)
The first of the Premier Electrics Ulster U21 Club Football Tournament 2019/20 Semi-Finals will take place between St Eunan’s Letterkenny (Donegal) and St Canice’s GAC Dungiven (Derry) this Sunday, 15th March at Kickhams GAC Creggan.
The tournament has been disrupted this season owing to wide ranging changes in the National schedule list but the Creggan club have worked tirelessly to find a way around this fixtures congestion, playing all four quarter-finals last weekend.
Three of those were played last Sunday at Creggan’s Staffordstown Road ground with Clann Eireann of Armagh defeating O’Rahilly’s GAC Latton of Monaghan in the opening game. The second quarter-final provided a real thriller as St. Brigid’s of Antrim took on their near neighbours, Carryduff from Down. For the second year running Carryduff pipped St. Brigid’s by a single point and will now meet Clann Eireann in the second semi-final on a date yet to be decided.
The third quarter-final of a busy schedule saw St. Eunan’s, Letterkenny prove too strong for Carrickmore of Tyrone, setting up a semi-final meeting with the winners of Dungiven and Enniskillen Gaels.
That fourth quarter-final was scheduled under the floodlights at St. Mary’s Ahoghill on Monday night but had to be hurriedly rearranged when the Cloney venue was deemed unplayable and the game was rescheduled to Bellaghy where Derry champions Dungiven overcame the challenge of Enniskillen Gaels in terrible conditions.
An injury time brace from Feargal Higgins and Conor Kelly tipped the balance in Dungiven’s favour after an absorbing hour of football in the incessant Bellaghy rain.
St Canice’s played three quarters of the game with 14 men, Daire McKeever dismissed for his involvement in the scenes directly after Conor Love’s 16th minute goal had put the Gaels ahead.
In a cagey encounter, the Derry side battled back to go in at the break one point ahead, but only after Enniskillen missed a glorious goal chance on the stroke of half-time.
A 39th minute Cahir Higgins free left just one between the sides and when a 44th minute Richie Mullan free levelled matters, the stage was set for a tense final ten minutes.
Enniskillen’s Brandon Horan rattled the post from range as his side looked to make their patient build-up count, but with extra time looming, St Canice’s found a winner.
Feargal Higgins collected the ball in the full-forward line, held off his marker and squeezed over a right-footed effort on 60 minutes almost from the end line.
Conor Kelly fired over the insurance point on the stroke of the final whistle and ensured Dungiven’s progress to an intriguing semi-final meeting with St Eunan’s of Letterkenny.
St Eunan’s were impressive in their win over Carrickmore and brushed their opponents aside on their way to an Ulster U21 Paddy McLarnon Cup semi-final.
The Donegal side were three points up inside two minutes as the strong Loughshore breeze sucked the ball back towards Niall McKenna’s goal on each kick out.
Despite Carmen settling towards the end of the half, the Tír Chonaill men led by double scores at the break and continued in the same vein without wind advantage to seal an 8-point win.
A blistering start saw Conor O’Donnell, Brian MacIntyre and Sean Breen all register points before Stephen Grogan could get Carrickmore off the mark in the 5th minute.
That score didn’t stem the Donegal men’s attacking tide as points from Oisín Toal, Shane O’Donnell and a further Conor O’Donnell free stretched the lead to five points.
The lively Conor O’Donnell then found the net after an audacious through ball from Cormac Finn landed perfectly in his arms, allowing him to roll it past Niall McKenna and into the net.
The Donegal champions led by six at half time but, given the strength of the breeze still looked to have it all to do in the second half. They continued to dominate matters after the break however with Brian McIntyre dropping deep to dictate matters from around mid-field.
Up front Conor O’Donnell impressed and his tally of 1-4 earned him the Premier Electrics man of the match award and marks him down as one to watch but this was a solid all round team performance from the Letterkenny side
Sunday’s semi-final has all the ingredients of a cracker but games in this competition over the years have been notoriously hard to call. Both sides showed in their respective semi-finals that they can play football and in the case of Dungiven it was their ability to dig deep in bad conditions to dig out the win.
A wide ranging inter-county fixture list coupled with club fixtures in Antrim could affect the attendance but I would urge anyone who wants to see a good game of open football to make their way to Creggan on Sunday-I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.