Top 2 in Group 2 could meet again in the final

Andersonstown IHC Semi-Finals

The first of the Andersonstown SC Intermediate Hurling Championship semi-finals takes place on Friday night in Dunsilly where Group 2 winners, Cloney Gaels take on St. Gall’s while North Antrim rivals, Emmet’s Cushendun and Oisin Glenariffe meet in the second semi-final in Cushendall on Saturday.

On paper group 2 of the qualifiers looked the slightly stronger group and it was the Ahoghill men who set the pace in this group with a win over division 1 side Emmet’s on day one. Cloney Gaels won that one 3-18 to 1-17 in Cloney and went through the group unbeaten with big wins over Tir na nOg, Gort na Mona and St. Paul’s.

Emmet’s recovered from that opening day defeat with wins over St. Paul’s and Gort na Mona but a draw against Tir na nOg at Whitehill meant they had to rely on a big win on the final day at Enright Park to qualify ahead of the Randalstown side on score difference.

Oisins topped group 1 with an away win at St. Gall’s on day 3 and a resounding victory over Creggan on day four seeing them finish ahead of St. Gall’s but the Milltown side qualified in second place with three wins from four starts, the Glenariffe defeat their only loss.

Cloney Gaels v St. Gall’s  (Dunsilly 7.00pm Friday)

Cloney Gaels look the form team of the two going into this eagerly awaited semi-final and a strong league campaign saw them finish second to Cathaoir an Ri with 12 wins from 16 starts to finish just a point behind the Ballyvoy side.

The Ahoghill men have scored freely this season with their twin attacking threat of James and P.J. O’Connell proving a real handful for most defences and the Gaels finished the highest scorers in division 2.

They carried that high scoring into the championship, hitting 3-18 against Cushendun, 4-15 against Tir na nOg, 7-19 against Gort na Mona and 4-22 against St. Paul’s.

Their opponents on Friday night, St. Gall’s had an indifferent league campaign with only six wins from 16 starts but not too much should be read into that league form as they were competitive in most of their defeats and Chris Dornan’s side always reserve their best for the championship.

They started their group 1 campaign with a 0-14 to 0-7 win away to Glenravel and followed it up with a 2-17 to 2-14 win at home to Creggan. St. Gall’s looked favourites to win the group when they defeated Sarsfield’s 0-22 to 0-19 at the Bear Pit but lost out on the final day to eventual group winners, Oisin’s at Milltown.

Cloney Gaels will start Friday night’s game as favourites but this won’t unduly worry Chris Dornan or his side. St. Gall’s have been renowned championship challengers at this level over the years and in Joe McDaniel, Niall O’Neill, Jackson and Gregory McGreevey, Tomas O’Ciarnan and Mark Napier they have excellent performers.

Cloney Gaels are likely to line out along familiar lines and even a hat-trick from Colla McDonnell against St. Paul’s on the final day of the group games does not guarantee the youngster a start on Friday night so stiff is the competition for places.

James ‘Bobby’ Magee and Bernard Graham should anchor a solid defence where Diarmaid Graham and Fionnbar O’Neill are likely to get the nod for a starting place. Niall O’Connell and Eamonn Brady have formed a strong mid-field partnership this year while Thomas McGlone, Donal Graham and Dan O’Neill should accompany the O’Connell’s in a potent attack.

Others will be waiting anxiously for the nod for a starting place in a side finely tuned by Hugh Dobbin and Shea O’Hagan but I don’t expect the Gaels to find scoring as easy as in recent championship outings but they should have enough to get them through with a bit to spare.

Oisin Glenariffe v Emmet’s Cushendun (Cushendall Saturday 3.00pm)

Saturday’s second semi-final brings together two sides who will need no introduction with a number of the Emmet’s panel, including the McSparran twins and John B Morgan having played at U17 level for the Oisin’s.

Emmet’s played their hurling in division 1 this year after moving up from division 2 last year but found the going extremely tuff in the higher grade. They opted to play Intermediate Championship and on reflection it has proved a wise decision though the readjustment hasn’t been easy.

The Cushendun side lost on day one of the group stages at Ahoghill and drew away to Tir na nOg but a superior score difference say them qualify in second place in the group to earn them a semi-final place against the Waterfoot side.

They hit 6-21 against Gort na Mona in their final game however which suggests they have plenty of fire-power with David Kilgore getting a hat-trick and Harry Kilgore 2-0 and Conor O’Hara all rippling the Gort na Mona net.

Gareth Magee in goals brings a wealth of experience to the side and Aidan Corbett, Donal O’Hara, Tom Scally and Conlaoth ‘Loaf’ McNeill are likely to carry the Emmet’s challenge on Saturday.

Oisin’s Glenariffe have been knocking at the Intermediate door for a while now and have always been tipped as potential winners and this could be the year to turn that potential into success but it won’t be easy.

Their win over St. Gall’s at Milltown and a great comeback to earn a draw against Sarsfield’s suggests that they certainly have the bottle for the big occasion and while nothing can be read into that final day mauling of a weakened Creggan, they certainly carry a scoring threat.

Paul McMullan, the Kearney’s, Daniel and Donal, Conor Patterson, Seanie McIntosh, David Kearney, Alex and Michael O’Boyle, Caolan O’Connor and Seamus McDonnell will carry the Oisins’ challenge in a game that could be very close with the possibility of extra time not to be ruled out but Emmet’s might just shade it in the end.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.