Intermediate Football Championship final
St. Ergtnat’s Moneyglass v St. James’ Aldergrove
Saturday 5-00pm (Portglenone)
Referee; Cathal McDermott (Tir na nOg)
St. Ergnat’s Moneyglass start as firm favourites to win Saturday’s Intermediate Football championship final when they take on St. James’ Aldergrove in Portglenone. The Moneyglass side have had an excellent season, finishing second in division 2 and just missing out on promotion after losing narrowly in a playoff against St. Mary’s Ahoghill.
That playoff finished all square after the first leg with Ahoghill scoring two injury time points to draw level and it took a late goal from Patrick Graham to edge Ahoghill through in the second game.
In the Intermediate championship St. Ergnat’s have been impressive this year. They faced a stiff opening hurdle when they were drawn against Cuchullains Dunloy in the opening round having suffered one of only three league defeats in Dunloy and indeed there were those who fancied the Cuchullains to go all the way in the championship.
Two goals from Conaill Prenter and a man of the match performance from Colm Duffin ensured St Ergnat’s lived up to their pre-match billing as favourites. The Moneyglass side saw off the challenge of Dunloy with seven points to spare at the end of a hugely entertaining hour of football.
Duffin top scored with 0-9 (0-3 frees) with Kevin ‘Kindo’ Marron 0-3, Patrick McCormick 0-2, Dermot McErlain, Sean Kelly, Jack McCoy, Conor Boyd and Jack Tohill all on target and providing a wide range of scorers.
Up next for St. Ergnat’s was a clash with neighbours, Tir na nOg and the Whitehill men asked questions of their Moneyglass opponents with some resolute defending but after a tough battle it was Donal Laverty’s side who prevailed.
Once again it was Colum Duffin who provided the game changing score with a goal, set up by Patrick McCormick, just before half time. Moneyglass pushed on to win by five with Duffin again top scorer with 1-4, Liam Brady 0-2, Jimmy McMeel 0-2, Patrick McCormick 0-2, Dermot McErlain and Niall Boyd on target.
So it was on to the semi-final and a meeting with surprise packet, Con Magee’s Glenravel ,who had defied the odds with a remarkable victory over Patrick Sarsfield’s in the quarter-final and once again St. Ergnat’s were cast in the role of favourites.
Two goals from Liam Brady and a goal late in the game from substitute Conaill Prenter ensured Moneyglass progressed to the Intermediate decider. The St Ergant’s men had seven points to spare over the Con Magees at the end of the hour, maybe the score line slightly flattered the winners but it was another clinical Moneyglass performance nonetheless.
Brady top scored for the winners with a personal tally of 2-2 while Kevin Marrron and Colum Duffin weighed in with four points each. Of the 3-14 scored by the St Ergnat’s men, only one point came from a free – Dermot McErlain converting in the 43rd minute. A remarkable stat for a championship semi-final!
While Moneyglass were grabbing the headlines on their way to tomorrow’s final, St. James Aldergrove had slipped under the radar on the other side of the draw but never the less are in the Intermediate final on merit.
Paddy Nugent’s side looked on their way out in their opening game at tomorrow’s venue when Rory McVeigh pointed for All Saints for the second time in the half to leave five between the sides in the 41st minute, this quarter-final looked over. Aldergrove had just lost their ace marksman, Seamus McGarry to a black card following a yellow barely three minutes earlier and All Saints looked to be heading to a comfortable victory. McGarry had scored five of Aldregrove’s points up to that moment and the Crumlin side were facing another early elimination from the championship.
What transpired in the final quarter was championship football at its finest. Aldergrove chipped away at the Ballymena side’s lead with Kian Jones and Conor Morris leading the charge. The pivotal moment came with four minutes of the match remaining. Aldergrove had moved Ronan Hanna to the edge of the square, giving them an outlet and a target man with a long ball. He was giving the Ballymena defence all they wanted and more and had already gone close to scoring a major 12 minutes earlier. When he found the net in the 56th minute, Aldergrove took the lead and they pushed on to take their place in the semi-final.
Seamus McGarry top scored with 0-5 (2 f’s) before his dismissal and Kian Jones 0-4; Ronan Hanna 1-1; Conor Morris 0-2 and Gerard Mallon 0-1 were the other Aldergrove scorers.
And so it was onto what looked like a fairly comfortable semi-final draw against Division 3 winners, St. Paul’s at Corrigan Park but as history shows, there is no such thing as an easy draw in the Intermediate Championship.
A late Seamus McGarry goal capped a second-half comeback which saw Aldergrove book their place in the final of the Larkin Cassidy Solicitors Intermediate Football final after a 3-08-2-07 win over St Pauls at Corrigan Park.
The Shaw’s Road side were there on merit following a good quarter-final victory over a strong St. Joseph’s Glenavy at Hannastown and they made a blistering start in this semi-final as they threastened to claim another division 2 scalp.
St Pauls dominated the opening quarter and Liam McKenna’s goal gave his side a 1-03-0-01 lead, though goals from Seamus McGarry and Ronan Hanna saw a rejuvenated Aldergrove hold a slender 2-04-1-05 advantage at the interval.
Liam McLarnon nudged St. Paul’s ahead again with an early second-half goal and the Shaw’s Road side held the lead until injury-time when Conor Morris drew the sides level with McGarry sealing the deal moments later to see his side into the decider with Moneyglass.
WHO WILL WIN?
The respective paths to the final coupled with their league campaigns would suggest that St. Ergnat’s should start tomorrow’s final as favourites. They are an excellent side who play an entertaining brand of football. A good blend of youth and experience, packed with pace and a serious scoring threat from all over the pitch.
Mark Carey is an experienced keeper with Tiarnan Duffin and Conor Boyd anchoring a strong but youthful defence where the Kelly brothers, Sean and Eamon, Peter McCormick and Jack McCoy are likely to start.
Colum Duffin has been pivotal to their success and forms a strong mid-field with the mercurial Dermot McErlain and both players are capable of weighing in with important scores. Patrick McCormick will test the Aldergrove defence with his pace and direct running while Conaill Prenter, Kevin Marron, Seanchann Duffin, Liam Brady and Paul Tohill will all be hoping for a nod in the starting line-up.
Aldergrove started the season badly and finished in the bottom half of the league after the split but they have shown improvement as the season progressed and the introduction of Kian Jones and Chris Morrison from their good minor team has rejuvenated the side.
Their win over All Saints in their opening game and particularly the manner of their come-back will have boosted their confidence and they have a strong spine of experienced players who may see tomorrow as a last chance to claim an Intermediate title that has eluded them over recent years.
Ferdia Carson, Chris McVey, Conor Totten and Ronan Wilkinson are solid defenders while Ryan Owens and Brian McQuillan are both fine mid-fielders who are capable of getting on the scoreboard. Ronan Hanna will prove a handful on the edge of the square while Seamus McGarry always poses a scoring threat.
Moneyglass will start as favourites and if given space and time look to have too much firepower for the Crumlin side but if Paddy Nugent’s side can hang in there until the final quarter then they might not be too far away.