Familiar foes too close to call as O Donnell’s and Pearses set for intriguing final.

Graham Tarmac Junior Football Championship

Preview by Niall Kelly

In an all Belfast affair, Cardinal O’Donnells and Pearses will renew acquaintances for the fourth time this year to decide the fate of the Junior Football Crown at 7.30pm on Friday under the lights at Dunsilly.

With both teams boasting an array of attacking talent amidst their ranks and riding the crest of a wave, it would take a brave soul to take a punt on the final outcome particularly when you cast your mind back on previous meetings this season.

The league encounters belonged to the North Belfast men as Na Piarsaigh took the spoils in both fixtures at the ‘Cricky’ and MacRory Park. However, when the two locked horns in the group stages of the Championship, it was O’Donnell’s who reversed their fortunes, cantering over the line with seven points to spare.

Many in attendance that August evening predicted that they were spectating a dress-rehearsal for the eventual final and thus here we are. Despite wearing the favourites tags for the majority of their group and knockout games, it didn’t seem to weigh too heavy as each negotiated their way through surviving a few scares along the way.

O’Donnells will certainly seek to plug gaps in their defensive ranks. Pearses are famed for their love of the green flag and with players like Liam Deegan and the two Grews roving around the forward line, they will need to be on their guard. The Whiterock Road men boast a wide selection of offensive artillery too. Richard McAvoy and Padraig McKissock have had scintillating campaigns and have been a constant source of scores. Buoyed also by the return of PJ Meenan to the starting fifteen, O’Ds will be confident their forwards can have the final say.

Another intriguing battle will involve both captains. Piaras Donaghy and John Rafferty are the midfield generals of their respective teams and will look to dictate play with their domineering presences in the engine room.

One thing is for sure, this one will swing this way and that. I can’t imagine that the eventual victors will do so with much of a comfort margin. There can be little doubt it will be a captivating encounter.

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