Shane O’Neill’s and Naomh Brid to edge tight semi-finals

Casement SC JHC Semi-Final

Saturday’s Casement SC JHC semi-finals both have the makings of tight and entertaining encounters with three of the top four teams in division 3 of the ACHL doing battle. The odd team out of the four is St. Mary’s Rasharkin but the Dreen side have put indifferent league form behind them to top their championship group and so enjoy home advantage for their meeting with Cloughmills.

Shane O’Neill’s Glenarm v Glen Rovers Armoy Saturday 3-00pm (Feystown)

The first semi-final throws together league winners, Shane O’Neill’s Glenarm and Glen Rovers, Armoy and as group winners the Feystown men enjoy home advantage against an Armoy side that they beat twice in the league.

When the sides met in Armoy on the 13th June Shane O’Neill’s recorded a high scoring 5-19 to 3-12 victory over the home side and the Glenarm men were again successful in Feystown when they ran out 1-20 to 0-7 winners and by virtue of those results will start Saturday’s encounter as firm favourites.

This will no doubt suit the visitors to Feystown who were drawn in what some considered the group of death with Shane O’Neill’s, St. Brigid’s and Lamh Dhearg and the Glen Rovers only qualified for the quarter-finals with a win over Lamh Dhearg in Armoy in their final group game after losing to both Shane O’Neill’s and St. Brigid’s.

Glen Rovers performed reasonably well in those two defeats, losing by a point at home to St. Brigid’s and scoring 3-10 on their visit to Feystown but eventually losing by 9 points.

Their win over Lamh Dhearg saw them drawn away to group 1 runners up, Michael Davitt’s and a win at Davitt’s Park is never easy and so it proved to be but the North Antrim side pulled out all the stops to win by 3-12 to 2-13 and that game will have given them the ideal preparation for Saturday’s encounter.

Shane O’Neill’s have been in top form this season, suffering only one league defeat at home to St. Brigid’s Cloughmills and they avenged that defeat when they travelled to Cloughmills in round 2 of the league by winning 4-20 to 3-17.

Two goals from corner-forward Kevin O’Boyle and goals apiece from Darren Hamill and Niall McGarel were the vital scores in a game that eventually decided the destination of the division 3 league and these three with Barry Hamill, Declan McDermott and the O’Boyle’s, Ben, Kieran and Sean and Dylan McLaughlin should give Shane O’Neill’s the edge on Saturday.

PJ McBride led the Armoy challenge against Davitt’s and finished with 0-4 while Thomas Burns was also to the fore with 1-3, Eamonn McCaughan, Rocky Dillon and Colin Lordan all to the fore for the visitors. The afore mentioned with Conor Devlin, Emmet O’Hara, Arthur Devlin and Owen Kinney will spearhead the Armoy challenge and they might not be too far away but I would expect home advantage to swing it Shane O’Neill’s way.

Rasharkin v Cloughmills Saturday 3-00pm (Rasharkin)

League form would suggest that St. Brigid’s will start this one as firm favourites despite St. Mary’s enjoying home advantage by virtue of topping their group in the championship. The Cloughmill’s men finished second in the league to eventual winners, Shane O’Neill’s and were the only team to beat the Glenarm men.

That win came at Feystown which would suggest that the ‘Biddies’ will not be over concerned by travelling to Dreen but they should never the less be wary of a Rasharkin side who seem to have found their best form in the championship following a less than impressive league campaign.

Rasharkin recorded only four wins in their 12 league starts and are the only team of Saturday’s semi-finalists to not make the cut when the league split and finished second bottom at the league’s end.

St. Mary’s have put that indifferent form behind them in the championship however and topped group 1 though it has to be said, group 1 wasn’t as strong as group 2. The  Dreen side beat what was in front of them however and after wins away to Ballymena and at home to the other St. Brigid’s (the Musgrave Park version) They defeated Davitt’s in Rasharkin to top the group.

Their opponents on Saturday, Naom Brid, Cloughmills finished second in group 2 with wins over Armoy and Lamh Dhearg with their only defeat suffered at the hands of Shane O’Neill’s in Cloughmills on the 2nd September.

As runners up in the group they had to play a quarter-final against All Saints and had little difficulty accounting of the Ballymena side in Cloughmills.

Cloughmills are strong in defence where Sean McKendry, Johnny Duffin and Conor Laverty anchor a solid unit. Ruairi Laverty and Geoffery Og Laverty form a solid mid-field partnership while defender turned attacker, Aaron Smiley, Liam Kearns and Mickey Devlin, if available form a real attacking threat.

Rasharkin will look to Conor Doherty, Ruairi O’Boyle and Emmet McFerran in defence while Tiernan O’Boyle has emerged as strong mid-fielder this season and could be partnered by the experienced Thomas McMullan with Declan McKay also dropping deep.

Perhaps the strongest unit in the St. Mary’s side is there half-forward line where Shane Hasson, Conor McFerran and Eamon McNeill all offer a serious threat while the pace of Donagh Quigg could also cause problems in the full-forward line.

Home advantage will certainly give Rasharkin a fighting chance and a big home support will get behind the men from Dreen but if Naomh Brid are at their best then I expect them to win this one and set up a final meeting with Shane O’Neill’s.

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