Bank of Ireland U21 Ulster Club Cup Tournament
Paddy McLarnon Cup Final – Sunday February 17th
Dromore (Tyrone) vs Carryduff (Down) 2pm
By Brendan McTaggart
Nine has become two but there can only be one winner. After six top quality matches, breathtaking football and drama aplenty, where the Paddy McLarnon Cup will reside for 2019 will be decided on Sunday. Dromore and Carryduff have navigated their way to the decider and by 3:30pm Sunday, we should know who the U21 champions will be.
The tournament as a whole has once again been a monumental success. Every club who has participated have brought a uniqueness to the tournament that only an Ulster club competition can bring and Sunday promises to be the final the tournament deserves.
We had a chat with both managers as we preview Sunday’s final.
Dromore’s date with destiny a marriage made in heaven…
Dromore’s path to Sunday’s decider has been controlled brilliance. Coming into their quarter-final against Clann Éireann, they put in a superb performance against a side highly fancied yet it was their semi-final win against Derry champions Magherafelt that proved to be the most eye catching.
Magherafelt were installed as favourites having demolished Enniskillen Gaels in their quarter-final, running in six goals in the process but the Tyrone champions put in another defensively strong yet devastating counter attacking performance to cruise to the decider.
Incredibly, they have half an eye on the 2019 county U21 championship already. After Sunday, they have three matches next week against Omagh, Carrickmore and Errigal Ciaran. Four championship matches, one of which an Ulster final, in the space of seven days. Burn out? A story for another day but for team manager Paddy Montague, football is put on the back burner. The Dromore man is getting married to his better half, Rebecca O’Brien on Saturday before making his way to the lough shore on Sunday to be with the squad. Dedication to his club and a seriously understanding wife-to-be. When we caught up with Montague during the week, he gave us his own assessment of their impressive semi-final win over Magherafelt: “We were slow in starting against Magherafelt but we regrouped at half time and the lads gave us a reaction in the second half. I felt we controlled the game after half time and it was a serious shift from the lads but that type of performance won’t be enough for us on Sunday.
“If we’re going to win it’ll take a complete 60 minute performance.”
The Dromore manager continued by heaping praise on their final opponents: “They’re a good side. You couldn’t help but be impressed with how they go about their game. Daniel Guinness, Pierce Laverty and Josh Connery had very good games against St Brigid’s while Owen McCabe was outstanding at 11.
“Ronan Beatty got man of the match and was very accurate from frees. He wins a lot of ball for them up front and he’s someone we’ll have to be careful of on Sunday.
“They play a lot of free flowing football and that can be hard enough to stop. We’re trying to come up with plans to counter that on Sunday.”
The Tyrone 2019 U21 championship is already underway and Montague’s side have an action packed week ahead: “It’s bizarre aye but it’s a nice situation to be in. It’s not everyday you get to an Ulster Final but after Sunday we have to play Omagh on Wednesday, Carrickmore on Friday then Errigan on Sunday to get caught up again.”
With players involved in the Sigerson Cup this weekend, it’s posed a problem for the Tyrone champions as Montague revealed: “We tried to get the match moved. It didn’t suit a few of our boys with Sigerson Cup on this Saturday. It wasn’t possible and you have to respect Creggan club for that. They run a terrific competition and it’s not easy getting space in the calendar so we’ll just have to deal with it. It’s put a couple of boys in a position to make a choice but we’re leaving it up to them.”
Montague’s side have already made history but are hungry for more as he concluded: “The whole town’s buzzing. It’s the first time a Dromore men’s team have reached an Ulster Final and you can tell these boys want it bad. Training has been class since the semi-final and the whole team are up for it. Hopefully we’ll do the business on Sunday and bring the Paddy McLarnon Cup back to Tyrone.”
Carryduff hoping to make more history….
Carryduff may only have had one match in the Paddy McLarnon Cup in 2019 but what a match it was. A blistering hour of pure entertainment that had the large crowd in attendance purring with Daniel Guinness scoring the decisive point at the death to edge the Down men past St Brigid’s.
Brilliant goals, goal saving tackles and attacking play that would do your heart good, Carryduff have won over the neutrals for their attacking play but should it be a surprise? In the Down championship they travelled to Burren and won before overcoming Bryansford in the county decider. They were awarded a bye in their quarter-final after the 11th hour withdrawal of Carrickmacross Emmets so having a three month break from competitive football makes their performance against St Brigid’s all the more impressive.
Having fell at the semi-final hurdle to eventual winners Gaoth Dobhair 12 months ago, Carryduff clearly have the hunger to succeed this time round. When we spoke with team manager DJ Morgan, he started by telling us about their epic semi-final win last day out: “We watched the match back again and it was an enjoyable game of football. End to end stuff and lived up to the hype. It was everything everyone thought it would be.
“We went toe to toe and we were fortunate enough in the end to come away with the win. It was one of those games that as a manager, you wouldn’t have been too disappointed to have come away with a loss.”
Morgan was complimentary of his final opponents when he continued: “Dromore were impressive. Especially against a Magherafelt side who were probably the pick of the teams after the Quarter-Finals. The way they took Enniskillen Gaels apart, we all thought they’d be the team to beat but Dromore did a number on them.
“They set themselves up, took the big hits and rode out the early storm and they controlled the second half about five minutes in.
“They work well as a unit. There’s always one sitting but it’s never the same person. They’re a well drilled but typical Tyrone team.”
Morgan reported a clean bill of health for his side from the their semi-final win but one of their goal scorers from the county final win over Bryansford misses out: “Rory Reilly is missing for us. He missed the semi-final as well with a groin strain but he’s been waiting for a while on a shoulder operation. He’s had trouble with it for the last couple of years where it’s popped in and out and he got the chance last week to get it sorted. We’re gutted for the lad.”
Carryduff are aiming to become the third club from the Mourne County to claim the U21 trophy, hoping to emulate Burren (2010, 2011) and Bryansford (2013). Morgan told us it could be a pivotal moment for his club: “It’s massive for the club. To be in an Ulster final is massive but to win it would be unreal. You can see the effect its having on the club already. The senior lads are in preseason at the minute and they’re training harder, they want to be part of this.
“It would give the whole club and give everyone a lift.”
The Tyrone and Down champions dominated the early years of the Paddy McLarnon Cup with the first five championships being split three to two in the Down men’s favour. Twice the counties champions have played in the decider with one win apiece. All these stats will count for little on Sunday however. Both sides are 60 minutes away from claiming a maiden Ulster club tournament. Will Dromore’s powerful, structured attacking play win the day or will the men from Carryduff produce another blistering performance? This one promises to be a cracker and I can’t see there being more than a kick of the ball between the sides. All roads lead to the Staffordstown Road on Sunday.