Early goals pave the way for St. Davog’s victory

Ulster Intermediate Football League

St. Davog’s Aghyaran 3-11 All Saints 3-9

Despite a great comeback and a sustained period of dominance All Saints, Ballymena were forced to succumb to a more clinical Davog’s Aghyaran in a superbly entertaining Ulster Intermediate football final at Celtic Park, Derry tonight.

The Tyrone side came flying out of the starting blocks and threatened to over run their Antrim opponents in the opening quarter as they raced into a 3-2 to 0-2 lead after 12 minutes and even at this early juncture it looked a long way back for the Ballymena side.

They staged a strong comeback however after moving Sean McVeigh from full-back to mid-field to close the gap to four at half time and when Cal O’Brien fired to the net, seven minutes into the second half it looked like the Slemish Park side were going to gain the day.

The Davog’s refused to panic however as they shut up shop at the back and the West Tyrone side finished strongly, kicking the final four points of the game and holding All Saints scoreless in the final quarter.

It was Aghyaran who made all the early running at Celtic Park with Eoghan McHugh, Ethan McHugh and Benny Gallen finding a way through a static All Saints defence to score three goals in the opening 12 minutes, all three scores clinical finishes to the corner of the net.

At this stage All Saints moved Sean McVeigh to midfield with James McDonnell taking over at full back and Ronan Ward dropping back to defence and slowly they began to get a foothold in proceedings.

By half time they had reduced the deficit to 3-6 to 1-8 with Shea O’Brien’s goal in the 18th minute the catalyst and Shaun O’Callaghan, Shea O’Brien, Oisin Connolly and Sean McVeigh kicking some excellent points as they dominated the second quarter.

Their insistence on going for goal was to prove their downfall in the end however with the St. Davog’s defence getting in some important blocks when points looked the sensible option.

The pace of Connell Lemon was causing the Aghyaran defence plenty of problems and when he was dragged down early in the second half Shea O’Brien stepped up to fire the resulting penalty to the net despite a gallant attempt from Niall Hilley in the St. Davog’s goal.

Cal O’Brien swings away in celebration after scoring All Saints third goal

Cal O’Brien followed with an excellent goal from play in the 7th minute to move the Ballymena side two in front and they looked like pushing on to collect the title but the Tyrone side refused to panic and slowly began to retake control.

Eoghan McHugh, Ethan McHugh, Benny Gallen and Diarmuid McHugh led the comeback with some excellent scores while at the other end Niall Hilley, Tommy Dolan, Tiarnan McSorley and Co. closed the door to deny the Antrim side any further scores despite some sustained pressure.

A very entertaining game of football, played in an excellent spirit and Liam Bradley and his backroom team will not be too disappointed with the result and certainly pleased with the performances from some of his younger players.

St. Davog’s showed a lot of composure when things seemed to be going against them however with The McHugh clan, Benny Gallen, Niall Hilley, Tommy Dolan, Roger Leonard and Tiarnan McSorley to the fore in an excellent Aghyaran side.

Aghyaran St. Davog’s: 1 Niall Hilley, 2 Cormac McHugh, 3 Tommy Dolan, 4 Oisin McHugh, 5 Johnny Connolly, 6 Tiarnan McSorley, 7 Garbhan McHugh, Shay Gallagher, 9 Benny Gallen, 10 Conor McHugh, 11 Roger Leonard, 12 Ethan McHugh, 13 Brian Penrose, 14 Eoghan McHugh, 15 Diarmuid McHugh Subs: 17 Ciaran McGlinchy, 19 Pearse Goane, 21 Denis McHugh, 22 Jamie Hegerty, 24 Darragh Travers, 25 Cormac Devine, 26 Ronan McLaughlin, 27 Gerard Carlin, 28 Jason Dolan

All Saints: 1 Niall Shannon, 2 James Gillan, 3 Sean McVeigh, 4 James McDonnell, 5 Joe Rafferty, 6 Rhys O’Mullan, 7 Shaun O’Callaghan, 8 Emmet Killough, 9 Shea O’Brien, 10 Ronan Ward, 11 Oisin Connolly, 12 Cal O’Brien, 13 Eoin Campbell, 14Connell Lemon, 15 Ciaran McLarnon. Subs: Brendan McDonnell, Ciaran McGarry,

All Saints face St. Davog’s in Ulster final

Ulster Intermediate football club final

All Saints (Antrim) v St. Davog’s Aghyaran (Tyrone)

This weekend’s Ulster Intermediate football club final looks like a difficult one to call. The competition itself has been affected by the early start to club leagues and unplayable pitches and quite a number of fixtures were not fulfilled.

Initially the majority of clubs enter the Ulster competition as an opportunity to prepare for their respective county leagues and under the new manager, Liam ‘Baker’ Bradley All Saints decided to enter this year’s Intermediate league.

They were awarded three home fixtures but got off to a bad start when they lost to Wolfe Tones of Armagh by 3-5 to 2-3.

As training got under way in earnest performance and results improved and they beat Desertmartin from Derry by 0-12 to 1-8 in their second game and a 0-8 to 0-6 win over Tir na nOg of Armagh left them in a good position going into their final game against Buncrana of Donegal.

With home advantage again All Saints pulled out all the stops to defeat the Donegal men 1-8 to 1-7 with Connell Lemon the star man on the day scoring 1-2 to send the Ballymena side into the unchartered territory of an Ulster final.

Their opponents in this weekend’s final are St. Davog’s Aghyaran, the most Westerly club in Tyrone and the Aghyaran side are likely to provide the Antrim side with a very stiff challenge and will start this decider as favourites.

In last year’s Intermediate grade in Tyrone St. Davog’s collected 25 points from a possible 30 league points despite being without county star, Ronan McNamee for 7 of their 15 league games but were beaten in the first round of the championship.

Their Ulster campaign, like many others was disrupted by postponements and they only got to play one of their three group games but they travelled to Belcoo O’Rahilly’s and recorded a good 0-12 to 0-8 win over the Fermanagh side.

This win was enough to qualify them for the semi-final where they faced a strong Corduff from Monaghan in Aghyaran and in an excellent game of football the Tyrone side emerged 2-7 to 0-12 winners.

All Saints had a good 2021 season but finished second in their division 2 league campaign and lost in the Intermediate final with Tir na nOg of Randalstown edging them out in both competitions and their manager Sean O’Brien stepped down to be replaced by Liam Bradley.

The former Antrim manager has had his start to the season hamstrung by a number of significant absentees and has used the Ulster league to research the depth of his panel.

They have made a bad start to their Antrim division 2 league campaign, losing away to Moneyglass and at home to St. James’ Aldergrove but have turned in descent performances in both games.

They have started their league campaign without the services of county players, Paddy McAleer and Conor Stewart while Peter McReynolds, Ciaran McGarry, Michael McCarry and Kavan Keenan have yet to figure this season and it is unlikely that any of them will play against Aghyaran.

Former county player Sean McVeigh, James McDonnell, Emmet Killough, Connell Lemon, Joe Rafferty, Shea O’Brien, Eoin Campbell and Rhys O’Mullan have figured regularly with youngsters like Shaun O’Callaghan, Cal O’Brien and Oisin Connolly getting a lot of game time

Tyrone teams have a good record in this competition and St. Davog’s will be keen to lift their first trophy of the season in preparation for their forthcoming league campaign.

Michael Anderson is the man in charge at St. Davog’s. Michael is an Aghyaran man through and through and is in his second year in charge of the Tyrone side and has represented the club at all levels as a player. Michael has a strong backroom team which includes, Eunan Mc Sorley, Kevin McMenamin, Bernard Moss, Ronan McHugh, Ronan McGuire and Gary Leonard. 

Their talisman, Ronan McNamee will be missing through county duty with Tyrone and they are missing a few more through injury but Niall Hilley, Tomas Dolan, Cormac McHugh, Oisin McHugh, Benny Gallen, Shay Gallagher and Roger Leonard have been in top class form for the Davog’s.

Forecasting winners in a competition like this is notoriously difficult to do as there is no history between the competing clubs. Both All Saints and St. Davog’s have performed well to date and both have been through tough semi-finals with only a point separating Aghyaran and Corduff and All Saints winning by the same margin over Buncrana.

Descent weather is forecast for this weekend so let’s hope the football served up is as good or even better than the weather. This game should attract a good crowd and the Saffron Gael will be there to cover what we hope will be a memorable final.

Update

This weekend’s Ulster Club Intermediate League Final has been confirmed 🏐 Saturday 26th March, 6.30pm Ulster Intermediate Football Club League Final Aghyaran St Davogs GAA Club (Tyrone) V All Saints GAC (Antrim) at Celtic Park, Derry

All Saints advance to Ulster final

Ulster club Intermediate club football semi-final

All Saints (Antrim) 1-8 Buncrana (Donegal) 1-7

All Saints, Ballymena have suffered defeat in their opening two ACFL Division 2 games but have performed reasonably well despite being short quite a number of players through county duty and injury.

New manager, Baker Bradly has used the Ulster Intermediate club league to blood a number of fringe players and the Ballymena men have performed admirably in the competition and on Sunday they defeated Buncrana of Donegal in the semi-final.

The Ballymena men enjoyed home advantage for this one but were pushed all the way by a determined Buncrana side who proved difficult to break down during the opening half and looked to be heading for the final when they led 1-4 to 0-2.

After the break the All Saints side started to spread the play, using the breadth of the pitch to good effect.

They began to get their inside men more on the ball with Connell Lemon opening up the visitors defence with his pace and his goal proved to be the turning point in the game, Lemon finishing the game as top scorer with 1-2. Oisin Connolly was another who found his range and added 0-3 while Shea O’Brien, Eoin Campbell and Ciaran Campbell were all on target as All Saints edged home by the minimum to reach the final.

All Saints will face Aghyaran St. Davog’s in ther final after the Tyrone side recorded a 2-7 to 0-12 semi-final win over Corduff in the other semi-final. The final is to be played at a Co Derry venue this coming weekend.

All Saints: Conor Brennan, James McDonnell, Sean McVeigh, James Gillian, Shaun O’Callaghan, Rhys O’Mullan, Joe Rafferty, Emmet Killough, Shea O’Brien, Cal O’Brien, Oisin Connolly, Ronan Ward, CiaranMcLarnon, Connell Lemon, Eoin Campbell subs: Niall Shannon, Joe Rocks, Darragh Mussen

Injury Time Heartbreak for Tir na nOg in Semi Final

Ulster Club Championship Intermediate Football Semi-Final

Tir na nOg 0-8 Moortown 0-9

Saturday 18 December

Brendan McTaggart reports from Ballinderry

Tir na nOg’s Ulster Odyssey ended on Saturday afternoon as they fell in injury time to Tyrone champions, Moortown.  It was a cruel end for the Whitehill men who led all game with Ryan Kelly’s 67th minute score the first time Moortown edged ahead.

In a game played with high intensity from the first whistle and drama never far away, referee Barry Cassidy issued five black cards with both sides playing on the edge in an attempt to wrestle momentum.  

Randalstown began superbly and had a four point lead at the first half water break but crucially they were only to score three further points for the entirety of the game as Moortown adapted to the Tir na nOg game plan.

Of their eight points, just one came from placed ball for Tir na nOg as Moortown put in an efficient defensive performance, especially in the second half to restrict the Randalstown blues. 

They played with their usual mix of direct play and patient possession in the early stages that left Moortown largely chasing shadows.  In fact, St Malachy’s first legible effort for a score came in the 12th minute as they played with a reluctance to shoot and making the wrong choices in the final third.  Their attacking threats coming from deep in the shape of Ciaran O’Neill and Darren McCormick with Barry McCormick orchestrating play in a quarter-back role.

When Moortown got it right in the middle third, they looked more threatening with Shaun Conway pulling the strings and Peter Devlin causing plenty of trouble for the Tir na nOg defence.

Apart from the opening quarter, there was nothing between the sides.  Tir na nOg managing to get ahead every time Moortown got back.  The second half was championship football in its rawest form with big tackles, bad misses, dramatic saves and massives scores.  The large crowd at Ballinderry were treated to an early Christmas cracker.  Tir na nOg ‘keeper Sean Paul McAtamney pulling off some sensational saves to keep the Tyrone men at bay, namely either side of half time when he denied Shaun Conway and Christopher McGuigan.

Cathal McOscar Photography

Tir na nOg looked to their bench and super-sub Ciaran Dobbin landed the first score of the last quarter with his first touch of the ball.  It gave his side the lead once more and breathed fresh impetus into their challenge.  It was a game you just couldn’t take your eyes off though with so much happening all over the pitch.

Both sides kept Barry Cassidy busy and he needed the help of his assistants on a number of occasions. Five black cards were issued in total with Darren McCormick and Oisin McVeigh black carded in the first half.  With the game on a knife edge, Moortown lost Peter Devlin to a black card with 10 minutes remaining.  Tir na nOg led by the minimum.  Tarlach Quinn and Christy Sheerin with sumptuous scores but the only scores recorded in that 10 minute period.  The Whitehill men couldn’t stretch their lead and were reduced to 14 men at the end of the hour with Sean Duffin receiving a dubious black card.

The momentum swung dramatically in the closing stages with both sides landing knock out blows.  It was going to take something special for either side to win this semi final and Moortown found it.  With Tir na nOg ahead by one point, Moortown equalised for the fourth time in the game, Ryan Kelly collecting a rushed clearance from the Antrim champions and splitting the upright from distance in the fourth minute of injury time.

There was still time for a winner and neither side spared a quarter but once again it was Captain Kelly who held his nerve as the Moortown faithful held their breath, dissecting the posts with a mammoth free to break Tir na nOg’s hearts at the death.

Sean Kelly was black carded as play resumed and Tir na nOg had a sight of the posts to force extra time but it wasn’t to be for the Whitehill men as lady luck left them in injury time.

A heart-breaking end to a superb season for Tir na nOg who lived the dream in Ulster this year but found that Moortown had the resilience and tenacity to match their own at the end of a game that neither side deserved to lose.

Tir na nOg: Sean Paul McAtamney; Brandon McLarnon, Ciaran McGrellis, Darren McCormick; Ciaran O’Neill, Barry McCormick, Caoimhin Duffin; Christy Sheerin, Ryan O’Neill; Peter Cullen, Sean Duffin, Darragh Fegan; Aaron McNeilly, Kevin Sheerin, Ciaran McKeown

Subs: Ciaran Dobbin for R O’Neill (41); Eamon Og McAllister for K Sheerin (45); Kevin Kerr for C McKeown (59)

Scorers: Peter Cullen 0-2; Darragh Fegan 0-2 (1f); Darren McCormick 0-1; Ciaran O’Neill 0-1; Christy Sheerin 0-1; Ciaran Dobbin 0-1

Moortown: Colm Spiers; Paudraic O’Hagan, Michael Devlin, Connor Quinn; Conor McVeigh, Christopher McGuigan, Brian McLernon; Tarlach Quinn, Blaine Ryan; Sean Kelly, Peter Devlin, Karl Hagan; Shaun Conway, Ryan Kelly, Lee Kelly

Subs: Oisin McVeigh for R Kelly (blood sub 30); Ryan Kelly for L Kelly (33); Tiernan Corr for B McLernon (36); Shea Lawn for C Quinn (55)

Scorers: Ryan Kelly 0-3 (1 ’45, 1f); Karl Hagan 0-2; Connor Quinn 0-1; Tarlach Quinn 0-1; Blaine Ryan 0-1; Peter Devlin 0-1 (1f)

Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry)

Return to Ballinderry can bring rewards for Tir na nOg

Ulster Intermediate Club football semi-final

Tir na nOg (Antrim) v Moortown St. Malachy’s (Tyrone)

Ballinderry 1.00pm Saturday

Referee: Barry Cassidy

As I eluded to earlier in the week, a return to Ballinderry can bring further rewards for Tir na nOg when they take on Moortown St. Malachy’s this Saturday in the semi-final of the Ulster Intermediate club football championship semi-final.

On the 10th March 2019 Tir na nOg took on St. Patrick’s Gortin in the Ulster Intermediate league final at Saturday’s venue and recorded a fairly comfortable win over the Tyrone side.

That game finished 2-10 to 2-2 for the Randalstown side but the victory was made much more comfortable by the dismissal of two of the Gortin side in the first half.

Whether that result will have any bearing on Saturday’s meeting with Moortown is questionable but quite a number of the panel that featured in that victory will be involved in Saturday’s semi-final while Ballinderry should provide a firmer surface than the previously scheduled Maghera.

Moortown St. Malachy’s are likely to provide a stiffer test than St. Patrick’s Gortin did in that league final back in 2019 but it is a challenge that Micky O’Kane, Seamus Hastings and the Whitehill side will embrace and they will be ready for it.

After collecting the Antrim title when they defeated All Saints in the final, Tir na nOg were drawn against Armagh champions, Carrickcruppen in the Ulster quarter-final and will have drawn a lot of confidence from their victory over the Armagh side in Ahoghill.

Tir na nOg produced a mighty performance as they saw off the challenge of Carrickcruppen with six points to spare.  The game was only decided in injury time however with the Armagh champions staging a late comeback but the men from Whitehill were full value for their win.

Leading by three points at half time after a superb start, all three majors in the game came after the last minute of normal time.  Ciaran Dobbin and Eamon Og McAllister taking advantage of Carrickcruppen goalkeeper Blaine Hughes going walkabout as the Naomh Padraig men fought to get back into the game while James Burns looked to have got the last touch on the ball for the Armagh champions goal.

In a frenetic end to the game, referee Niall McKenna issued three red cards with Burns and Conal O’Callaghan seeing red and Barry McCormick for Tir na nOg but in reality, the dismissals had no effect on the result. 

Thankfully McCormick’s dismissal for a second yellow card will not rule him out of Saturday’s semi-final. The centre-half-back and captain is vital to the Tir na nOg cause and on his day he is one of the best in the county in that position.

Tir na nOg have been excellent this season, going through the league unbeaten before making it a league and championship double in their own county and they have carried that form into their Ulster campaign.

They are a big mobile side who retain the ball well and are capable of posting high scores as demonstrated against Carrickcruppen. Darragh Fagan is a reliable free taker and that will be important on Saturday while Eamon Og McAllister, Aaron McNeilly, Sean Duffin and Daniel Martin are all capable of taking scores.

At mid-field Chrity Sheerin and Darren McCormick are strong and combative and both have the ability to come up with scores while Sean Paul McAtamney in goals and Ciaran McGrellis, Ciaran O’Neill and Caoimhin Duffin combine with the excellent Barry McCormick to form a strong defence.

Saturday’s semi-final opponents, Moortown St. Malachys will provide a formidable opponents for the Antrim champions.

What of Moortown St. Malachy’s?

Moortown were convincing winners over Fermanagh champions Erne Gaels in Carrickmore in their Ulster quarter-final.

The Fermanagh side started the game on the front foot and they opened up an early 0-02 to 0-00 lead through converted frees by Barry McCann and Shane Rooney.

Moortown slowly started to work their way into the game and a 1-02 blast in a two minute spell swung the game in their favour.

Peter Devlin got them off the mark from a free in the ninth minute before they then bagged their first goal of the day moments later.

A great run by half back Brian McLernon resulted in the ball being fed across the goal and midfielder Blaine Ryan was on hand to tuck to the net from close range.

Another Devlin mark followed and by the 11th minute they led 1-02 to 0-02.

Barry McCann replied with a point for Erne Gaels after he exchanged passes with Rooney but Moortown were starting to dominate matters and Ryan Kelly fired over from play while Devlin converted two frees before the Red Hand’s side swooped for goal number two. Lee Kelly got on the end of a high ball close to goal and he spun and shot low to the back of the net to put them into a 2-05 to 0-03 lead.

Rooney did knock over a free for Erne Gaels but a Kelly mark left eight between the sides at half time.

A point from Christopher McGuigan extended the advantage further on the restart although Erne Gaels answered with a goal in the 34th minute, substitute Deery bundling home after Michael Og McGarrigle’s initial effort was blocked.

It was not the start of a comeback though from Erne Gaels as Moortown quickly reasserted themselves on the contest as McLernon lobbed over two scores while Devlin tapped over a free to make it 2-10 to 1-04.

Erne Gaels also lost Jack McCann to a black card and although Deery landed a lovely point, Moortown answered with a Karl Hagan point to leave it 2-11 to 1-05 at the water-break.

Corner forward Kelly plundered his second and Moortown’s third while Erne Gaels picked up a second black card, this time Ryan Lyons the guilty party.

The Fermanagh side continued to battle and Deery thundered a 25 yard quickly taken free kick to the top corner but this was merely a consolation strike as the game finished 3-12 to 2-05 in Moortown’s favour.

Tir na nOg should provide a much stiffer challenge for the Tyrone champions and if it is tight going down the finishing straight the Whitehill side have an ace in their pack and are likely to introduce ‘Super Sub’ Ciaran Dobbin who has come up with vital scores throughout the season and could prove the vital ingredient to see Tir na nOg through to the final.