Unlikely lads can advance in Ulster opener

Ulster Intermediate Hurling championship quarter-final

Kickham’s Creggan v Bredagh

Pairc Esler Sunday 2-00pm

When Kickham’s Creggan finished their division 2 league campaign with only one win from 13 starts it would have been the most optimistic of punters whowould have given them a chance when the championship came around.

That dreadful league campaign didn’t tell the full story of Creggan hurling however. The club had been decimated by a long injury list that affected both their hurlers and footballers but come championship time those injuries were starting to abate.

The Kickham’s were drawn in Group 2 with Padraig Sarsfields, Glenariffe, St Paul’s and Glenravel in a difficult qualifying group but made people sit up and take notice when they travelled to Waterfoot and beat the Oisin’s 3-16 to 1-13 in their opening game.

Perhaps they had caught a fancied Glenariffe off guard. That could have been the conclusion when Sarsfields visited the Staffordstown Road in round 2 and came away with a 1-10 to 0-10 win while Glenariffe recovered from the Creggan defeat to record a big win at St. Paul’s.

Creggan travelled to St. Paul’s in round three for what had become a ‘must win’ encounter and came away with a hard earned 0-17 to 0-15 victory over the Shaw’s Road side.

The improvement continued in round four when Con Magee’s travelled to Creggan with the home side emerging 1-23 to 1-17 winners in a solid if not spectacular win but it was obvious by this stage that the Kickham’s were gathering momentum.

On the same day Glenariffe travelled to the Bear Pit for a winner takes all encounter with Sarsfield’s and it was the home side who emerged with a late goal to join Creggan in the semi-finals.

And so it was that these two would meet again in the final after Sarsfield’s defeated a fancied Tir na nOg in Extra time and Creggan proved too good for pre-match favourites Cushendun in Glenravel.

Once again Creggan were handed the underdog tag when they faced up to a Niall McKenna led Sarsfield’s in the final in Dunsilly on Saturday the 14th October but they continued to defy all predictions as Tommy McCann’s unlikely lads finishing strongly to run out deserving winners in the end.

Oran McCann’s 54th minute goal was pivotal in Creggan seeing off a determined Sarsfields side 1-16-0-14 in the decider. Creggan trailed at the break in an evenly contested final and regained the initiative through a Thomas McCann score 12 minutes from time.

There was never more than two-points between the sides until the 54th minute when McCann stretched the lead and then assisted in namesake Oran firing home the game’s only goal seconds later to seal their first Intermediate crown since 2015. 

County player Conor McCann has made his return to the side after almost a year out with injury and has helped to steady the Creggan ship. McCann managed only one point from play against a determined Sarsfield’s but his accuracy from frees helped his side over the line.

Their defence was sound with Sam Maguire and Sean Duffin contributing points while Odhran McCann top scored with 1-2 and Morgan Nelson, Kevin Rice and Thomas McCann all contributed with scores.

What of Bredagh?

Sunday’s opponents Bredagh play their hurling in the Antrim ACHL Division 2 and like their opponents on Sunday, won only one of their 13 games but recorded two draws to finish two points ahead of the Kickham’s in the league.

That win was over Creggan on the Staffordstown Road away back in early April with a goal separating the sides in a thrilling game that ended 3-14 to 2-14 in favour of the Down Intermediate champions.

Bredagh began this year’s championship campaign in the Down Senior Championship where they lost heavily to Portaferry defeating Newry Shamrocks 1-18 to 0-16 in their second game.

They ran Ballygalget close in their final game and were thus relegated to the Intermediate Championship where the winners qualifies for the subsequent Ulster Intermediate Club Championship.

Bredagh emerged winners of that championship after defeating Carryduff by 2-19 to 0-09 in the 2023 final.

That league meeting between Sunday’s opponents back in April would suggest that Bredagh will go into Sunday’s game with confidence but fortunes have improved for both sides since then. Bredagh trailed the home side for 55 of the 60 minutes in that league encounter, only getting over the line with a goal at the game entered extra time. 

Three minutes into the 2nd half Bredagh had turned the home side’s 9-point advantage with 2 goals in quick succession.  The first of the 2 goals, scored by Liam Hogan, dropped over Tiernan McLarnon’s head to the back of the net.  The 2nd goal, from Cormac Blaney, was unstoppable at close range. 

Bredagh’s final game in the Down Senior Championship, where they lost by only three to Ballygalget and their subsequent Intermediate success over Carryduff would suggest they are running into form just at the right time.

Creggan have impressed throughout the Antrim championship however and I would expect the McCann and Rice clans, Sean Duffin, Morgan Nelson and Co. to have enough to see them avenge that early season league defeat and advance to the Ulster semi-final in Newry

Creggan v Sarsfield’s Antrim final: C Rice, A Maguire, A McKeown, J McAteer, S Maguire (0-01), K McCann, L McCann, S Duffin (0-01), R McCann, M Nelson (0-02), K Rice (0-02), O McCann (1-02), T McCann (0-02), C McCann (0-06, 0-05f), D Mulholland. Subs: T McLarnon for D Mulholland (46), L Johnston for O McCann (59), P McGuckian for S Maguire (60+2). 

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