GYMCO JFC Final
St. Mary’s Rasharkin v Naomh Comhghall Antrim
South west rivals Sr. Mary’s Rasharkin and Naomh Comhghall Antrim meet this Sunday in the final of the GYMCO JFC and it promises to be an interesting contest between two sides who have been to the fore in division 3 in recent times.
Former Intermediate championship winners, Rasharkin have been undergoing a rebuilding programme in recent years and following their relegation from division 2, a couple of years ago have rung the changes in management and personnel.
Stephen (Spanner) Hardy is the man in charge of the Dreen outfit this year and he has called on the services of Creggan man, Ciaran McCartney as trainer and it has proved a winning combination to date.
Rasharkin won division 3 of the ACFL this year, defeating a descent Na Piarsaigh side in the final and on Sunday past defeated the North Belfast side in a tight championship semi-final in Toome.
It’s been 11 years since St. Mary’s enjoyed championship success however but back in 2010 they defeated Dunloy in the Intermediate Championship final after a replay and they went on to reach the Ulster semi-final that year.
The Dreen side have failed to build on that success and in recent years they have battled to hold onto their division 2 status before suffering relegation a couple of years ago. A lot of the old guard have moved on but slowly but surely Stephen Hardy and his management team have introduced a number of new faces and this year the side has started to click.
Tiernan O’Boyle, Fearghal Kennedy and Ruairi O’Boyle are just some of the new faces making their mark with the Dreen side while former Donegal man Seamus Ellis has proved a useful addition to the side. The team retain quite a number of experienced players however with Andrew and Conor Hasson, Conor McFerran, Donagh Quigg and Gerard O’Hagan the men whom the team revolve around.
The side has been hampered by injuries to two of their top forwards in recent time with Ryan Lynch out for a lengthy period and Eamonn McNeill unable to start or indeed take any part in last week’s semi-final.
Rasharkin suffered a further injury blow just before throw-in last Sunday when their keeper, Ryan Doherty injured himself in the warm-up and had to be replaced by Tiernan O’Boyle in goals.
Doherty is unlikely to make Sunday’s final and Lynch is a definite non-starter but whether McNeill will start or indeed be able to take any part remains to be seen. Pearse Kelly, the Quiggs, Ciaran, Liam and Donagh and Jack Quinn are all likely to join the previously mentioned in the starting line-up for Sunday’s final.
Their opponents on Sunday, Naomh Comhghall of Antrim have been knocking on the Junior Championship door for more years than they want to remember but will certainly provide Rasharkin with tough opposition in the Ahoghill showdown.
St. Comgall’s stalwart, Paddy Quinn was in the team who defeated St. John’s in the decider back in 1995 and managed the side who beat Ballycastle in the 1998 final at Casement Park. That was the last time the men from Antrim town lifted the trophy but they were beaten finalists against Ardoyne, Glenravel and St. Malachy’s in more recent times and they will be hoping to go one step further come Sunday.
Adrian Dougan is the man in charge at St. Comhghalls and he will renew acquaintances with his friend and Creggan Colleague, Ciaran McCartney, this Sunday though that friendship could be put on hold until after Sunday’s final.
Dougan has a strong panel to select from but instilling belief into his side will be key if they are to put the disappointment of recent championship defeats behind them.
Anto Watson in goals, Caolan O’Loan, Ryan McAuley, Dylan Murdock, Danaan O’Hara, James McCabe, Tom Patchett, Patrick O’Connor, Joseph Webb and Paddy Quinn are just some of the players that Dougan can call upon as Naomh Comhghall attempt to put a barren spell behind them.
Much will depend on whether the Antrim town side can learn the lessons from previous championship defeats but they certainly face a stiff test against a Rasharkin side who have potential match winners in Conor and Andrew Hasson, Seamus Ellis, Conor McFerran, Gerard O’Hagan and, if fit, Eamonn McNeill.