Can Glenavy spoil the Steelstown party?

Ulster Intermediate LGFA Club Final

Glenavy (Antrim) v Steelstown (Derry)

Carrickmore 2-00pm Saturday

St. Joseph’s Glenavy travel to Carrickmore on Saturday where they take on Steelstown of Derry in the LGFA Ulster Intermediate final and they will have to be at their best for the full 60 plus minutes if they are to overcome the challenge of a strong Steelstown side.

The Derry champions have been knocking on the door of Ulster championship success for the last few years but to date the door has remained shut.

Its two years since Steelstown Ladies stood on a sodden Augher pitch watching Kinawley be crowned 2021 Ulster Intermediate champions. Brian Ogs’ hearts had been broken by an injury time Roisin O’Reilly point after a game they should have won.

A year later the Derry champions were expelled from the competition at the final stage in the most bizarre of circumstances when a late change of venue meant moving to a 3G surface. The city girls were already en route to the final without the necessary footwear and the surface switch meant they were unable to fulfil the fixture.

Steelstown have returned even stronger this year and their win over Glen Maghera in the Derry final where they ran out 2-11 to 0-3 winners to collect their fourth Derry title in a row shows they are in fine form.

They were sensational as they underlined, once again, their Oak Leaf dominance with a fourth straight Derry senior title; a fifth in seven years in what was their fifth successive senior county final.

Wins over a youthful Omagh St. Enda’s in the Ulster quarter-final and a resounding victory over Castleblaney in the semi-final where they ran out 3-13 to 1-9 winners will see them go into Saturdays final in Carrickmore as firm favourites.

St. Joseph’s Glenavy defeated neighbours, St. James Aldergrove in the Antrim final after losing to the same opposition in the group stages of the championship.

They really came to life in the knockout stages as they recorded a 4-12 to 1-5 win over the Crumlin girls in the final to send them through to the Ulster’s where they received a tricky away draw to Donegal champions, Naomh Muire.

The long trip to Donegal proved a successful one in the end for St. Joseph’s Glenavy but there were forced to endure a few anxious moments in the end as Naomh Muire hit 2-1 in the closing minutes to threaten the Glenavy party.

The Chapel Hill side held on for the win however to set them up for a quarter-final meeting with Down champions, Rostrevor where they received a home draw.

A late Ellen Morgan piece of magic swung this Ulster LGFA IFC clash the way of St Joseph’s Glenavy when they overcame the considerable challenge of a Niamh Rice inspired Rostrevor in the Ulster Intermediate Football Championship quarter final in wet conditions at Chapel Hill

The home side looked to be heading for a comfortable victory when they led by 2-3 to 0-1 after 19 minutes, their goals coming from Aoibheann Monaghan and Grainne McLaughlin but it was visitors Rostrevor who finished the half strongly.

Niamh Rice led the way for the Down champions and she would add 1-3 to Aislinn McGeough’s early point to close the gap to a goal by half time, the Glenavy cause not helped by a yellow card decision late in the half

Rostrevor started the second half as they had finished the first with Colleen Crios and Aoife Murphy pointing to close the gap to one after six minutes before Ellen Morgan edged the home side two in front with a point in the 11th minute, their first score in over 20 minutes.

It seemed in vain as the Down girls came roaring back and when the impressive Niamh Rice rattled the Glenavy net in the 16th minute, Rostrevor were ahead for the first time and looking the likelier winners.

Clara Mulvenna followed with a point to put the Down champions two ahead in the 18th minute but it would be their final score of the game as Glenavy picked themselves of the canvas to finish strongly and earn a place in the semi-final.

Glenavy 4-12 Ballyhaise (Cavan) 3-9 semi-final

Injury time goals from corner forward Aoibheann Monaghan and full forward Ellen Morgan added a gloss to Glenavy’s victory over Ballyhaise of Cavan in the Ulster LGFA Intermediate semi-final at Chapel Hill, in a thrilling game of football. After leading by five points at half time (1-8 to 1-3) Glenavy saw their lead cut back to two early in the second half. They responded well and boosted by a Graine McLaughlin goal they pulled clear again. However the Ballyhaise girls fought their way back again and came within three as the game went into injury time.

There were still a few anxious moments for the home fans, but those worries were short lived as Monaghan and Morgan struck with two great goals in injury time to seal a place in the final against Derry champions Steelstown on Saturday.

Glenavy have been excellent this season but must eradicate their habit of switching off in games where they appeared to be in complete control as happened in all three of the Ulster championship games this year and they will need to keep their foot on the pedal against a very experienced Steelstown if they are to overcome the Derry champions

Steelstown’s bid for glory will once again be backboned by the likes of Aoife McGough, Ciara McGurk and 2017 All Ireland Junior Players’ Player of the Year, Emma Doherty, who led the Brian Ogs to Ulster Junior glory in 2015. That was a first provincial title for the city.

St. Joseph’s have their own star performers in county player, Grainne McLaughlin, Meabh Bradley, Mary McStravick, Bronagh Forester, Ana Mulholland, Aoibhean Monaghan and Ellen Morgan but are a well-balanced team unit.

The Antrim champions will go into Saturday’s final as outsiders but if they can produce their best for the full game and remain focused throughout then they can make it another bad day for Steelstown in Ulster deciders.

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