ACFL Division 3 League Cup final
St. Mary’s Rasharkin v Na Piarsaigh
N.B. Tonights final has been switched to Ahoghill 7-30 pm
Tonight’s Division 3 League Cup final between Rasharkin and Na Piarsaigh looks a real cracker. No one seen it coming! If league results were anything to go by then it should have been Naomh Comhghall and Naomh Padraig lining out in opposition for the league title but, as in life, matters in football don’t always go as predicted.
Naomh Comhghall Antrim strolled through their division 3 campaign to top the ratings. Nine wins from nine starts and a score difference of 106 points suggested that they would only have to turn up in Rasharkin to beat a Na Piarsaigh side who had slipped under the radar with a win on the last day of the league campaign.
The meeting of St. Mary’s Rasharkin and Naomh Padraig at Dunsilly in the other semi-final would have attracted similar predictions. A week earlier Rasharkin travelled to Lisburn for their final game of the league campaign with the home side emerging winners by 10 points.
Once again that old cliché, league football counts for nothing when it comes to the championship came into play however with Na Piarsaigh turning the form book completely on its head. The North Belfast side raced into a 0-10 to 0-1 lead at Dreen with Ethan Devine leading the way with 0-4 and his free taking was to play a major part in his side’s victory.
Naomh Comhghall were clearly rattled. They didn’t see this coming, it wasn’t in the script. They did finally get going and had it back to a single point at one stage of the second half with Conor McAuley leading the come-back.
The Pearses men looked under pressure but they found another response and their two star men Donaghy and Devine worked the ball upfield again and Moreland provided the killer blow with a sweetly taken goal that sets up a final meeting with Rasharkin on Wednesday evening.
While this ‘shock’ was unfolding at Rasharkin the local St. Mary’s side were taking the field at tonight’s venue against favourites Naomh Padraig. Could lightning strike in two places some 15 miles apart at the same time? Indeed it could.
Tiernan O’Boyle’s goal midway through the second half helped Rasharkin to a shock, but deserving one point win over St Patrick’s Lisburn in a high-noon battle at Dunsilly. St. Patrick’s had dominated possession in the early stages but struggled to turn that possession into scores.
Rasharkin were working hard and they turned that hard work into score when two points from Seamus Ellis saw them move into a 0-5 to 0-1 lead after 21 minutes. The Lisburn side came back strongly however with Ben McMullan leading the way to draw level at half time.
It was in the balance during a tight second half but Tiernan O’Boyle’s goal in the 45th minute swung it Rasharkin’s way. The Lisburn men fought back to draw level late in the game but two late pointed frees from Andrew Hasson saw Rasharkin through to the final.
So who will win? Predicting the unpredictable isn’t an easy task. The last time these sides met Na Piarsaigh put six goals past a shell shocked Rasharkin in Belfast so on that form Pearses should start as firm favourites.
Na Piarsaigh’s win over St. Comgall’s would add further weight to the argument that they will have too much for their South West rivals but I’m not buying it.
I believe this eagerly awaited final could go down to the wire. Sean Seamus Moreland, Piaras Donaghy, Ethan Devine and Fionn Grew have the knowhow and fire power to lead Na Piarsaigh to their first title for a number of years and if they can produce the form of the semi-final then they will be hard to beat.
Rasharkin though have turned an unpredictable season on its head to reach tomorrow night’s final and will feel they can reverse that heavy defeat in Belfast where they were short a few regulars. They have quite a number of players who have experience of playing at a higher level with Ryan Doherty, Emmet McFerran, Donagh Quigg, Thomas McMullan, Ruairi O’Boyle, Seamus Ellis and Andrew Hasson all competent performers.
Hasson scored 0-7 (0-6 frees) of his side’s total against Naomh Padraig and this one is likely to be keenly contested with the game played at real championship intensity and a tight, close contest could be decided by the free takers with Andrew Hasson of Rasharkin and Ethan Devine of Na Piarsaigh holding the keys that could unlock the respective doors.