Two mouth-watering semis down for decision

Larkin Cassidy Solicitors IFC semi-final previews

The semi-finals of the Larkin Cassidy Intermediate Football Championship are down for decision this week with Cuchullain’s Dunloy taking on All Saints, Ballymena at Ahoghill tomorrow night and St. Ergnat’s Moneyglass facing St. Paul’s at Quinn Park, Ballymena on Wednesday evening.

All four sides have reached the knockout stages on merit with All Saints toping Group 2 with 5 wins from 5 starts and St. Paul’s who they narrowly defeated in the final game of the group stages in Ballymena, winning 4 of their 5 games and just a kick of the ball between the two in the group stages.

In Group 1 it was last year’s beaten finalists St. Ergnat’s Moneyglass who topped their group and, like the Ballymena men, they won all 5 of their group games with Dunloy finishing with 4 wins from 5, their only defeat at the hands of St. Ergnat’s in a tight encounter at Marian Hill.

Dunloy v All Saints (Tuesday-Ahoghill 7-15)

It’s been a wonderful season to date for Cuchullain’s Dunloy with the Senior Reserve Hurling Cup and the Senior Reserve Football Shield already in the Dunloy trophy cabinet and a place in next weekend’s Senior Hurling final secured yesterday with a win over Rossa at Dunsilly.

Their senior footballers have been performing well this year with their only defeat coming at the hands of a strong Moneyglass side where they lost by two points in a game that was evenly balanced throughout.

They showed what they are capable of when they travelled to Glenavy in the final Group 1 game and came away with a healthy 2-11 to 0-9 win with Conal ‘Cobey’ Cunning and Seaan Elliott getting their goals.

Both youngsters have played a key role for their senior hurlers this year but they are just two of a number of players who have been operating on both fronts (hurling and football). Cuchullain’s are strong side with a good mixture of youth and experience and winning has become a habit for the boys from the village this year.

Stephen McIlroy is a reliable keeper while in front of him they have strong defenders in Karl O’Kane, Aaron Crawford, Callum Scullion and Anton McGrath. Kevin McQuillan brings a wealth of experience to their mid-field and against Glenavy he was partnered by former All Saints player, Ryan McGarry. In attack the afore mentioned Seaan Elliott and Conal Cunning have useful colleagues in Ryan McFarlane, Kevin ‘Rev’ McAllister and Chrissy McMahon, who was the Dunloy hero in their win over Rossa in the hurling on Sunday.

All Saints have had a good season to date with manger, Sean O’Brien enlisting the help of former Tyrone player, Damien ‘Scotchy’ O’Hagan to his backroom staff and the Ballymena side have certainly tightened up in defence where their habit of conceding soft goals has been their Achilles heel in the past.

Sean McVeigh has given a life time of service to All Saints and has been deployed in a deeper sweeper role this year with great success while James Gillan has been excellent at full-back after stepping into the role for the injured Peter McNicholl. Ciaran McGarry, Kavan Keenan, Conall Lemon, Peter McReynolds, Michael McCarry, Emmet Killough, Brendan McDonnell and Conor Stewart will carry the hopes of All Saints into tomorrow night’s game.

Verdict: Dunloy have proved to be the Ballymena men’s bogey side in recent years and if it’s still tight going down the home straight then they could advance to another final this year.

St. Ergnat’s Moneyglass v St. Paul’s (Wednesday-Ballymena 7-15)

St. Ergnat’s Moneyglass have been knocking at the door of Intermediate Championship success for a number of years and it has been something of a mystery as to why they have not succeeded. They went into last year’s final against St. James’ Aldergrove as strong favourites but lost to the Crumlin side and they will see this as the year that they can finally succeed.

They are an excellent side with quality throughout the team with Antrim county player, Colm Duffin the driving force at mid-field. Mark Carey is an experienced and confident keeper while the Kelly’s, Sean and Eamonn, Tiernan Duffin and Conor Boyd are reliable and tested defenders. County defender, Patrick McCormick has been operating in attack this season with great success while Dermot McErlain is a player capable of setting any game alight and can be a match winner on his day.

Like Dunloy, St. Paul’s have been fighting on two fronts this year with their hurlers collecting the Junior Hurling championship title with a win over Emmet’s Cushendun on Saturday.

They have a number of duel players in their side and their management will be hoping that they came through Saturday’s final unscratched. S Bradley, Colm McLarnon, James Farrell and Conal Finnegan are some of the players who played in Saturday’s final at Wednesday night’s venue and will all be hoping for a starting spot in Ballymena.

Kiefer Toolan, Niall Ward, Niall Peoples, Liam McKiernan and M Connolly will carry the hopes of St. Paul’s as they attempt to reach their second final of the season and on this seasons performances they might not be far away.

Verdict: Moneyglass have come so close to championship success in recent years and with a team who have been together for a number of seasons I would expect them to win this one but it could be closer than expected.

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