Rasharkin face tough opener in Clones

Sunday 5th Nov 2023

Clones 2-00pm

Rasharkin v Blackhill (Monaghan)

Antrim champions, St. Mary’s Rasharkin face a tough opener when they face Blackhill of Monaghan in the Ulster Junior Football Championship in Clones this Sunday.

Rasharkin completed a league and championship double in Antrim this year while their opponents, Blackhill achieved a similar outcome in Monaghan and will go into Sunday’s Ulster opener against Rasharkin in confident mood.

The Dreen side have had an excellent season and after piping O’Donnell’s for the Division 3 league title they would come up against their Belfast rivals again in the Junior Championship final.

The O’D’s, who were the only side to record a league win over St. Mary’s when they defeated them at Dreen, looked set to overcome the South West side in the championship decider when they led by six with five minutes remaining until the break. Sean Pat Donnelly had taken flight for the O’Ds, rampaging from his own half to bare down on the opposition goal only to see his low drive drag agonisingly wide of the post. A mere two minutes and two Rasharkin goals later, and the O’s were scratching their heads. Tiernan O’Boyle’s scorcher and a Ryan Lynch penalty had flipped the momentum on its head. Rasharkin’s seasoned performers then put in a composed second half performance to get the job done and kept the O’Donnell’s resistance at bay in the process.

Stephen Hardy and his management team will know that a start like that in the Antrim final will simply not be good enough and I have heard on the grapevine that Stephen and his team have been along to run their eye over the Castleblaney side and that he feels they are beatable if Rasharkin can produce their best form for 60 minutes.

Monaghan champions, Blackhill defeated Scotstown in the quarter-final of the Monaghan Junior Championship while the team that many felt would be their biggest threat, Tyholland recorded a 0-14 to 1-9 win over Currin as they got their campaign up and running.

Tyholland carried that good form into the semi-final where they recorded a resounding 4-13 to 1-11 win over Eire Og while Blackhill hadn’t it all their own way when defeating Drumhowan 0-11to 0-7 in their semi-final, setting up a meeting with Tyholland in the Monaghan final.

As predicted, the final turned into a battle between two very well matched sides with Blackhill emerging victorious on a scoreline of 1-5 to 0-7. A fisted goal from Hugh Byrne after 31 minutes and three converted frees from Philip Donnelly were the scores that got Blackhill over the line but they had to withstand a strong finish from Tyholland who kicked the last two points of the game to close the scores to a single point at the full-time whistle.

Rasharklin last played in Ulster in 2010 when they won the Antrim Intermediate championship with a win over Dunloy in Portglenone after a replay. They went on that year to defeat Castledawson in the Ulster quarter-final at Casement Park, setting up a semi-final meeting with Lisnaskee Emmets, who won the Fermanagh division 1 league that year and proved too strong for a spirited St. Mary’s in a foggy Omagh.

Cathal Mooney Eamon McNeill and Shane and Conor Hasson were part of the 2010 panel and are all likely to figure on Sunday in Clones. Rasharkin are a good blend of youth and experience with Andrew Hasson in goals an excellent custodian who has played for Antrim while Perarse Kelly, Eamon McFerran, Conor Hasson, captain Tomas McMullan, Eamonn McNeill, Cathal Mooney and Shane Hasson are all experienced and polished performers.

They are complemented by a number of emerging talents in Fergal Kennedy, Tiernan O’Boyle and Ruairi O’Boyle while in Ryan Lynch they have a prolific scorer on his day and if he and Eamonn McNeill reach their scoring potential in Clones then a place in the semi-final can be secured.

Rasharkin v O’Donnell’s Antrim Final:

A Hasson; P Kelly, E McFerrnan, F Quigg; F Kennedy, C Hasson, T O’Boyle (1-01;) T McMullan, R O’Boyle; D Quigg (0-01,) C Mooney, O McMullan; S Hasson (0-02,) E McNeill (0-01) R Lynch (2-02)

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