Hurling takes centre stage in Antrim this weekend with finals in Junior, Intermediate and Senior with all three grades promising to produce entertaining and competitive deciders and all likely to attract bumper crowds.
The action gets underway on Saturday when close rivals, St. Brigid’s, Cloughmills and Glen Rovers, Armoy meet in the Junior final, hosted by Oisins Glenariff in Waterfoot.
Dunsilly provides the venue for the ANDERSONSTOWN SC Intermediate decider between Kickham’s Creggan and Patrick Sarsfield’s and once again we have all the ingredients for a cracker.
It’s on to Corrigan on Sunday where Loughgiel Shamrock’s, who produced something of a shock in their semi-final win over Dunloy take on a Cushendall side who recorded a resounding win over them in the Group stages.
CASEMENT SC JHC Final
Glen Rovers Armoy v St. Brigid’s Cloughmills
These two will need no introduction as Glen Rovers and St. Brigid’s have served up many tight and entertaining contests in recent years. The sides met in the Junior Feis final earlier in the year with St. Brigid’s winning that one with something to spare.
A master class of point taking by St. Brigid’s Eoin Dobbin inspired the Cloughmills’ club to Feis glory when they overcame the challenge of neighbours, Glen Rovers Armoy in the final in Dunloy.
The talented number 13 finished the game with 0-12 to his name and displayed unerring accuracy on a day when both sides missed a bucket full of scoring opportunities.
Only two of Dobbin’s total came from play but his free taking was right out of the top drawer as he struck at least three from 70 meters or more on a night when little went right for the men from ‘The Glen’.
Armoy did gain a measure of revenge when the sides met in Armoy in the league with the Glen Rovers coming out tops in that one and it will have given them confidence going into Saturday’s final in Glenariff.
From the outset of this year’s Junior Hurling Championship the smart money would have been on these two to make the decider.
Both dropped down from Intermediate where they had competed for some time and both played their hurling in division 2 for quite a number of years and they finished second and third in division 3 this year in the league behind winners Cuchulainn Hurling Club, Armagh.
The Armagh side dropped only three points on their way to the title with Cloughmill’s earning a draw in Armagh city after losing to the same side on the opening day of the league in Cloughmills while Glen Rovers inflicted Cuchulainn’s only defeat in Armoy back on the 2nd July
Glen Rovers began their JHC campaign with a win away to Davitt’s at Davitt’s Park by 0-20 to 2-11back in August and went on to beat Rasharkin by the narrowest of Margins at Dreen in their second group outing.
The ‘Rovers’ went on to top their group with a win over Lamh Dhearg, 3-12 to 2-12 in Armoy before recording a fairly comfortable semi-final win over Gort na Mona at the same venue.
St. Brigid’s Cloughmills, like Saturday’s opponents, went through the group stages unbeaten and began their campaign with a 1-19 to 0-13 victory over Gort na Mona at Enright Park.
They followed that win with victory over All Saints in Cloughmills with six points separating them from the Ballymena side and finished their group campaign with a facile victory over the namesakes, St. Brigid’s Belfast.
Like Glen Rovers, St. Brigid’s earned a home venue for their semi-final against Lamh Dhearg by virtue of topping their group and ran out convincing 1-20 to 0-9 winners in the end to set up a meeting with Glen Rovers in the decider.
John ‘Rocky’ Dillon missed the semi-final against Gort na Mona with an ankle injury and the Armoy management will be hoping the former county full-back has recovered to take his place in the final.
Late goals from Ciaran McKenna and Eoin Kinney sealed victory and a place in the Casement Social Club JHC final for Glen Rovers when they held off a spirited challenge from Gort na Mona in Armoy.
Conor Devlin will line out in goals for Armoy and has been a reliable custodian for many years while Liam Dillon, Shane and Arthur Devlin, Thomas Burns and Hugh O’Kane will all be hoping to get the nod in the starting defence. PJ McBride accompanied McKenna at mid-field last day out and Turlach McBride was a major contributor from frees with Trevor Linton continuing to put in impressive performances in attack.
St. Brigid’s have their own Mr Reliable in goals in Chris McKiernan while Sean McKendry, Geoffery Og Laverty and Johnny Duffin all impressed in defence against Gort na Mona.
Kevin O’Boyle moved to mid-field for that one from his usual defensive birth while Eoin Dobbin, Mickey Devlin and Liam Kearns gave the ‘Biddies’ plenty of options in attack.
In a tight game this could become the battle of the free takers with Eoin Dobbin in impressive form from the placed ball for the Cloughmills side and Turlach McBride showing similar accuracy for Glen Rovers in their respective semi-finals.
I don’t expect there to be much between these evenly balanced sides come 2.10pm on Saturday and it could be all down to who settles quickest on the day but I’m going to stick my neck out and predict a Cloughmills win but it could go either way.