Glenarm start as favourites but it won’t be easy

Casement SC JHC Final

Saturday – 1-00pm Dunsilly

Shane O’Neill’s Glenarm v St. Mary’s Rasharklin

Shane O’Neill’s, Glenarm will start as firm favourites for Saturday’s Casement SC JHC final where they take on Naomh Muire, Rasharkin at Dunsilly but the Feystown side would do well not to underestimate the threat posed by the men from Dreen.

Shane O’Neill’s have been in top form this season, suffering only one league defeat at home to St. Brigid’s Cloughmills on their way to the division 3 league title 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 are all likely to play a vital role for the Feystown side at Dunsilly.

In contrast St. Mary’s had a mediocre league campaign, finishing second bottom with just four wins from 12 starts but came alive when it came around to the championship.

They finished top of their qualifying group with three wins from three starts with Davitt’s, All Saints and St. Brigid’s Belfast all put to the sword by the Rasharkin men.

Shane O’Neill’s came through a much tougher group 1 with wins over Glen Rovers, St. Brigid’s Cloughmill’s and a draw away to Lamh Dhearg and they were to meet the Armoy men again in the semi-final after Glen Rovers defeated Davitt’s in the quarter-final in Belfast.

Shane O’Neill’s recorded their fourth win of the season over Glen Rovers, Armoy in that semi-final at Feystown to advance to the final but despite the final margin of victory they were forced to fight all the way in a sometimes bruising battle.

The Glenarm men had already recorded home and away wins in the league against Armoy and added a win over the same side in group 2 of the qualifiers and so went into this one as firm favourites but the men from the Armoy Glen were determined to cause an upset on this occasion.

After falling behind to an early Owen Kinney goal, Glenarm came back with goals from Kevin O’Boyle and Niall McGarel to lead by 2-6 to 1-5 at the break but the game was far from over at this stage.

Despite having a man dismissed after 13 minutes of the second half, Armoy threw everything at the opposition and goals from Eamon McCaughan and Trevor Linton in reply to a second from Niall McGarel for Glenarm kept the contest alive going into the closing stages.

A fourth goal from Dylan McLaughlin put matters out of reach of the visitors and Glenarm pushed on to win by 4-17 to 3-8 in the end and look in rude health as they go into Saturday’s decider.

Like their opponents, Rasharkin enjoyed home advantage for their semi-final against a St. Brigid’s, Cloughmills side who had hammered All Saints in the quarter-final and despite home advantage, it was former division 2 side St. Brigid’s who were expected to advance.

St. Mary’s went into this one as underdogs but they showed the battling qualities that they will need again in abundance when they face Shane O’Neill’s Glenarm in a final where they will again start as outsiders.

A personal tally of 0-8 from Conor McKeever paved the way for an excellent victory for St. Mary’s Rasharkin over St. Brigid’s. The big number 15 was in great form, both from play and from placed balls but he was only one of an excellent all round home side who’s greater desire and fighting spirit got them through to Saturday’s final.

Rasharkin led 0-4 to 0-0 after 8 minutes with McKeever hitting 0-3 but Cloughmills responded to close the gap to the minimum with 11 minutes gone. Rasharkin went on to lead by two at the break but had keeper Liam Tunney to thank as he pulled off an excellent save to deny Corey Blair what looked a certain goal.

The game was still finally balanced at the end of the third quarter when Aaron Smylie pointed for the visitors to level matters but it would be Cloughmills final score as St. Mary’s intensity started to tell.

Shane Hasson struck an inspirational point to give Rasharkin back a lead they would not again lose and Conor McKeever brought his personal tally to 0-8 from a ‘65’ in the 58th minute before substitute Conor McKillop followed with the last point of the game to see the home side into the final.

Conor McKeever is the man that Rasharkin will look to for scores on Saturday but St. Mary’s are certainly not a one man team and in keeper Liam Tunney, defenders Conor Doherty and Emmet McFerran, Thomas McMullan and Tiernan O’Boyle at mid-field and a strong half forward line of Shane Hasson, Conor McFerran and Eamon McNeill they have strong performers.

Shane O’Neill’s will have to be at their best but if they can reach the level of consistency they have shown throughout the league and championship then they should have enough to edge this eagerly awaited final.

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