Rasharkin and Naomh Padraig – a hard one to call

U20 B Football Final

St. Mary’s Rasharkin v Naomh Padraig Lisburn

Crumlin Leisure Centre Saturday 1-30

Referee: Fionntan McCotter

Saturday’s U20B Football final at Crumlin Leisure Centre between St. Mary’s Rasharkin and Naomh Padraig Lisburn looks a hard one to call. The U20 football championships at both A & B level have been dogged by postponements and teams conceding and there seemed to be a bit of apathy within the county about both competitions.

The general feeling seems to be that the competition was played at the wrong time of the season with fixtures often clashing with club’s senior championship games on the same weekend and sometimes on the same day and it is something the relevant body will have to address for next year.

Despite all that the final of the U20A competition was played last weekend with Con Magee’s, Glenravel defeating St. Gall’s. Both sides had played most of their qualifying games and met in an excellent final at Davitt’s where the Con Magee’s emerged as winners by the minimum.

Saturday’s B final brings together two clubs who are no strangers to each other with the sides meeting regularly in division 3 of the All County League and Junior Championship in recent years with the men from Dreen holding the bragging rights in the majority of those games.

Those results are unlikely to have any effect on Saturday’s final however and for both it will be something of a step into the unknown since their respective journeys into Saturday’s final have been less than ideal given the number-or lack of number, of games both sides have played.

Indeed St. Mary’s Rasharkin only played one game out of five fixtures during the qualifying group stages and that game was played at Dreen back on the 12th September when they defeated Lamh Dhearg in an excellent contest by 3-12 to 2-12.

It was a similar story with Naomh Padraig Lisburn who travelled to Glenavy and drew with St. Joseph’s in another entertaining contest which finished 0-9 to 0-9 back on the 10th September.

So it is to their senior sides that we take a look in order to assess the potential strengths of both teams and we first of all look at St. Mary’s Rasharkin, this year’s division 3 winners and beaten Junior Championship finalists.

Liam Hardy, Brian Cowan and Ryan Lynch are the men in charge of Rasharkin and they can call upon a fair sprinkling of their senior team for Saturday’s decider.

Colm Kennedy was a consistent performer for Rasharkin throughout their league and championship campaign and his runs from half-back and ability to take scores marks him down as a real prospect for the future.

Tiernan and Ruairi O’Boyle are others who have made the step up to senior recently and performed to the highest level with former county minor keeper, Tiernan likely to occupy an outfield berth though he stepped in to the goalkeeping role for the seniors when their regular keeper was injured prior to the championship semi-final.

Liam Quigg and Odhran McGarrell are others with senior experience who will backbone St. Mary’s challenge at Crumlin Leisure centre as they attempt to capture their first title at this level and the Dreen side will give it everything.

This is the first time in a number of years St.Patricks has fielded at this age bracket (U20/21)

The club decided back in December 2020 to set up an U20 team to help with the development of their young players and also to help with their pathway to becoming senior players in the years to come. That was the main goal this season and making the B championship final has been the icing on the cake for the side.

Stephen Brannigan is the man in charge of Naomh Padraig and he is assisted by Cormac McKenna, Conor Dixon, Ben McMullan, Josh McMullan and Aaron Thompson.

Stephen spoke to us this week and gave us his thoughts on this year’s U20 campaign. “It’s been a frustrating championship and league campaign for most U20s teams due to teams not being able to field with fixtures clashes etc but it’s great to see the finals being played at long last. As frustrating as the season has been for our U20s, they continued to train and work hard and didn’t let it bother them as we were able to field for every game that was scheduled which is a credit to them all and now the lads are looking forward to playing in the final against a strong Rasharkin team in what should be an excellent final”.

Eoin Dixon, Colm Burns, Che Smyth, James Morgan and Rory Kennedy have been in great form for Naomh Padraig during their league campaign and these are some of the players that the Lisburn men will look to on Saturday as the club attempts to write its own little bit of history.

“Our opening and only game in the championship was a tight affair against Glenavy which finished in a 0-9 to 0-9 draw. We had a good league campaign with wins over Glenavy and Lamh Dhearg and we were disappointed to come away from Portglenone with a defeat by 2 points. We have quite a few U17s in the squad who don’t look out of place and are all enjoying it and more importantly stepping up to the challenge of playing U20. It’s been a great journey so far for the U20s lads which can only bear fruit for the senior team in years to come and help continue the upward trend of St Patricks Lisburn”

It’s been a while since either side have kicked a ball in this competition and much could depend on how well training has gone for the relevant sides in the interim period. The all-weather surface at Crumlin Leisure centre could set its own challenges but Saturday’s final has the potential to be an entertaining and close game.

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