Will Dunloy’s great run continue or will Casements end their semi-final duck

Championship Semi finals (Previews) 22nd, 23rd, 24th September)

The penultimate stages of the football championships occupies the week-end ahead with semi-final games in all of the grades, Senior, Intermediate, and Junior scheduled.

Dunsilly is the venue for both the senior semis, with the Cargin and St Enda’s venues hosting the intermediate semis and the junior games at Rasharkin and O’ Donnell’s.

Friday 22nd September

Northern Switchgear S F C (semi-final)

Dunsilly 1 (7.30pm)

The championship action gets under-way on Friday evening and a big crowd is expected at Dunsilly in an all South West encounter as Casement’s Portglenone meet Dunloy with the prize of a place in the 2023 county senior final as reward for the winner.

The Cuchullian’s endured a poor season in the league and were relegated from division 2 but have really turned it around in the championship and are one game away from a county final.

A win over St Gall’s at Milltown seemed to ignite the spark and although they lost to Creggan next time out, the Dunloy men made the pundits sit up and took notice when they came from off the pace to gain a win over Lamh Dhearg in the quarter final.

A superb victory over a fancied Hannahstown outfit, who had impressed with a win over Casement’s earlier in the competition, and Anthony McMullan, who is assisted in the managerial role by Ballinderry man, Stephen McGeehan, will look to the likes of Seaan Elliot, Conal Cunning, the Smith brothers and Nigel Elliot as they go into action at Dunsilly.

Casement’s have enjoyed a good season to date and have secured the division 1 league title for the first time and went on to defeat Creggan in the quarter-final of the championship.

That one proved to be a close encounter but a late goal for the Bannsider’s proved the key to open the way and a place in the semi-finals against the Cuchullian’s.

John McKeever will hope for another strong showing for his side with Niall McKeever again likely to partner Niall Delargy at mid-field while Jonny Convery and the Delargy brothers in defence and Paddy Kelly, Aiden Mc Aleese, Michael Hagen and Oisin Doherty will carry a strong attacking threat.

Casement’s will start as slight favourites and although the Cuchullian’s will be well prepared for action the Bannsider’s may just edge this one.

Sunday 24th September

Dunsilly 1 2.00pm

Erin’s Own Cargin v St Brigid’s

The action returns to Dunsilly on Sunday with the defending champions, Erin’s Own Cargin meeting city rivals St Brigid’s in a game which is certain to attract a big crowd to the Antrim venue.

The Cargin men are undefeated in the the group stages and the opening knock out games but they had to dig deep in the quarter final, which was a repeat of last year’s decider against Aghagallon, and it took a late Tome Shivers point to get them over the line.

Ronan Devlin will hope for a return to the starting fifteen for John Carron and Mark Kelly for this semi-final clash but Michael Mc Cann is not expected to be ready for this one.

The mid field general had surgery on a troublesome back injury and hasn’t figured this year after and it is likely to be a few more weeks before he can be considered for selection.

Ronan Devlin will look to the likes of Kevin O’ Boyle, Justin Crozier, James Laverty, Kevin Mc Shane, Jamie Gribbin, Pat Shivers, and the McCann brothers Paul, and Tomas to lead them to the decider.

St Brigid’s, like Cargin have yet to endure defeat in this year’s championship having passed the Aghagallon test before proving too strong for a good Rossa side and they will approach this one with confidence.

The Musgrave Park side have been boosted this year by the transfer of several players from Lavey and this has certainly added strength and depth to their squad and the Downey influence added to the Finnegan brothers, Reuben Carelton, Jack Dowling, Ronan Boyle, Paul King, and James Smith make them a formidable opponent.

 Cargin have a lot of experience at this stage of the championship and the Toome men may well advance to another decider but they could face a stiff test from an improving St. Brigid’s.

Saturday 23rd September

OB Construction I F C Semi Finals

Cargin 4.00pm

Patrick Sarsfields v Con Magees Glenravel

Con Magees are going well at present and have already won division 2 of the ACFL and will play their football in division 1 next season and are just two games away from a unique double.

Sarsfield’s have made steady progress over the past few seasons and lost to Saturday’s opponents at the same stage of the competition last year. They recorded a five point win to neighbours St Paul’s in the quarter-final but looked in a spot of trouble at one stage before finishing strongly with Kevin Mc Kernan helping himself to a few excellent scores as they ran out 1-13 to 1-08 winners.

Ironically Sarsfield’s are still in the running for a double of their own with their hurlers in the semi-final of the Intermediate Hurling championship. The McKernan’s, Gary Lennon Niall McAlea and Niall McKenna are just a few of the players involved in both codes and they have momentum going into Saturday’s semi-final.

Con Magees have had an excellent season and they will turn to Eoin and Catha Hinds Aiden O’ Donnell, Cormac Mc Keon, and Callum Higgins, Cormac McKeown and the superb Eamon Fyfe to see them through to a second consecutive final.

Much will depend on the lessons learned from last year’s semi-final and this may well be a close encounter but the Con Magee’s men are awarded the vote.

Hightown 4.00pm

All Saint’s Ballymena v St Teresa’s

St. Tewresa’s made a slow start in their quarter final against Aldergrove but grew in confidence as the game progressed before running out 2-12 to 1-13 winners.

The Glen road side went into this one as underdogs with Aldergrove well ahead of them as the league concluded and were given little chance by most of the pundits.

St Teresa’s gained in confidence as the second half progressed however with Philip Maguire leading by splendid example to run out winners by two points. Conor O’ Rawe, Anton Taylor, and Declan Gough were all in great form at McDonald/Doherty Park and long serving manager, Liam Mc Goldrick will have his side well motivated for Saturday’s semi-final against All Saints.

All Saints have enjoyed an indifferent 2023 but have run into a bit of form in the championship, despite being without county pair, Paddy McAleer and Conor Stewart.

Peter ‘Pizza’ McReynolds is another who is likely to miss out but their home win over Ardoyne should give them confidence going into this weekend’s meeting with St. Teresa’s at Hightown.

After a shaky start where they might have conceded a couple of early goals, they settled to win fairly comfortably in the end but there will have been a few aspects of their game that didn’t please Liam Bradley and his management team.

Connell Lennon, James and Benny McDonnell,  Cal O’ Brien, Emmett Killough, Luke O’ Rawe, Sean McVeigh and Ronan McKillop are just some of the players that can swing it All Saints way but they should be wary of a rejuvenated St. Teresa’s.

League form would suggest an All Saints win in this one but, as we have seen on several fronts this year, league form counts for little when it comes to the championship and the Ballymena side will have to be at their best if they are to advance to the final.

Graham Tarmac J F C (semi finals)

Mc Crory Pk 3.00pm

Cardinal O’ Donnell’s v Eire Og

Eire Og have enjoyed a descent league campaign but will start as underdogs as they take on League runners-up, O’Donnell’s at MacRory Park. The South Belfast side recorded a good win over Wolfe Tones but that victory was made easier by the dismissal of two of the Wolfe Tones side.

James Toal, Conor Darkin, Dermot Murray and Gavin Donnelly were in top form in that quarter-final victory and will carry Eire Og’s hopes into Saturday’s semi-final.

O’ Donnell’s finished second in the league to Rasharkin and were the only side to record a win over St. Mary’s this year and will start as firm favourites and they should gain the verdict to book a place in the decider.

Dreen 3.00pm

JFC Semi-Final

St Mary’s Rasharkin v St Malachy’s

St. Mary’s go into this one with the league title already under their belts and anything other than a win here would be a major surprise. Under the management of Stephen Hardy, John McTaggart and Paul Baird they are chasing the league/championship double in what has been a great season for the men from Dreen.

Having impressed throughout the 2023 season they are now on the cusp of a place in the junior championship decider as they welcome South Belfast based St. Malachy’s to Dreen.

The current management will pin their hopes on Andrew Hasson, Donagh Quigg, Ruairi O’Boyle, Eamonn McNeill, Shane Hasson and Ryan Lynch to lead them through to this year’s decider.  

A late Ciaran Vernon point saw St. Malachy’s pip a fancied Laochra Loch Lao in the quarter-final and they will turn to players like Vernon, Anthony Dobbin, Stephen Carson and Shea Lynch to carry their challenge against Rasharklin.

Rasharkin will start this one as firm favourites and barring a major upset they should gain a place in the decider.

Flying start sends Eire Og on their way to the semis

Graham Tarmac Antrim JFC, quarter-final

Éire Óg 4-12 Wolfe Tone’s 2-8

Eire Og advanced to the semi-final of the Graham Tarmac Junior Football Championship following this 10 point win over Wolfe Tones in a feisty quarter final at Woodlands on Friday night.

The Tones didn’t help their cause when they lost two players to Red cards in the period leading up to half time though by that stage they were already in trouble.

Eire Og got off to a flying start and struck with two goals in the opening minutes to put themselves in a strong position. Conor Erskine was hauled down as he raced in on goal with the referee pointing to the spot.

James Toal stepped up to take the spot kick and Danny McIvor got down to deny him but Conor McKenna was first to the rebound and returned it to the Wolfe Tonne’s net.

Wolfe Tonnes looked rattled and from the resulting kick out Conor Erskine intercepted and raced clear for a second goal and suddenly the hill facing the Greencastle side had become much steeper.

James Toal, who was to have a major impact on proceedings, added three points, his third a great effort from out on the left and it was hard to see how the new boys of Antrim football were going to get back into the game even at this early juncture.

They finally got off the mark however with Jack Parke opening their account and when Aodhán Moloney fired low past Hamill in the Eire Og goal, things were looking more promising.

Unfortunately they were unable to build on this cameo moment and it was Eire Og who came back strongly and James Toal, Gavin Donnelly and Niall Ward added points before Donnelly set up Caomhin Dyke with a tantalising pass across goal and Daykin gratefully palmed home in the 21st minute.

Tomas Austin and Conor Burrows replied with points for Wolfe Tone’s, but they received another severe blow when Gerard McDonnell, who was booked earlier, was shown a straight red and a minute later, Stephen McKee became the second Tone’s man to see Red.

As the second half got under way Eire Og sought to put matters to bed and James Toal kicked a couple of early points and Niall Ward followed with another to increase their lead.

Their opponents were still battling hard against the odds and Chris Dawson kicked an excellent point but Éire Óg responded in decisive fashion as Dermott Murray set up the lively Daykin who evade a couple of challenges before finishing to the net in the11th minute.  

It looked all over at this stage but to their credit, Wolfe Tonnes continued to fight against almost impossible odds and Dawson and Park converted frees at the other end.

The Greencastle side continued to press and Jason Parke gave them something to cheer about as he broke clear on the right to fire to the net.

It was too little, too late however as both sides exchanged scores in the closing stages and Conor McKenna finished with the games last score to give his side a healthy 10 point win.

Eire Og now face O’Donnell’s in their semi-final while St. Malachy’s, who defeated Laochra Loch Lao in the other quarter-final will face St. Mary’s Rasharkin.

Eire Og: M Hamill; K Ryan, A McKnight, J Devlin; C Rice, R Clarke, D Murray; C McKenna (1-1), C Daykin (2-0); G Donnelly (0-2), N Ward (0-2), C Erskine (1-0); S Erskine (0-1), J Toal (0-6, 3 frees), K Clarke.

Subs: E McNulty for K Ryan (HT), A McKenna for C Erskine (45), P Loughran for A McKnight (45), S McNamee for N Ward (53), O McMenamin for J Devlin (59).

Wolfe Tonnes: D McIvor; A McAllister, S McKee, N Brannagan; J Parke (1-4, 0-4 frees), D McGovern, C McDonnell; K Moloney, E McKee; M McCann, C Burrows (0-1), D Moloney; C Dawson (0-2, 1 free), A Moloney (1-0), T Austin (0-1).

Subs: P Walsh for N Brannigan (9), J Carberry for T Austin (54), M Smyth for E McKee (60)

Referee: Paddy Tumelty (Lámh Dhearg)

Vernon’s late points seals St Malachy’s victory

Graham Tarmac Junior Football Championship Quarter final

Laochra Loch Lao 1-8 St Malachy’s 0-12

Two late points from Anthony Dobbin and man of the match Ciaran Vernon guided St Malachy’s to the semi-final of the Junior Football Championship at Caolaiste Feirste on Friday evening. For most of the game the Markets’ men appeared to be in control and when they went five clear ten minutes into the second half it looked like they were going to get home with a bit to spare. However Laochra Loch Lao worked their way back into the game and when they hit a goal and two points to go a point clear with just five minutes left to play, it looked like they were bound for the semi-final. However Dobbin and Vernon came to St Malachy’s rescue to tip the scales back in their favour in the run in in a thrilling finish.

Aidan Connor and Ciaran Veron gave St Mal’s an early lead and it was nine minutes for Laochra raised their first flag through Conor McGucken. Rian McShane brought them level on 14 minutes but St Malachy’s had the better of the second quarter and points from Stephen Carson, Anthony Dobbin and Ronan Maneely, in reply to just one from Laochra’s McGucken, saw the Markets men go in at the break with a 0-5 to 0-3 lead.

When Patrick Smyth, Shea Lynch and Aidan Connor added the first three points of the second half the Mal’s lead was out to 0-8 to 0-3 and they appeared to be in full control. However the excellent McGucken got his team going again with a point on forty minutes. Ciaran Vernon replied within a minute for St Malachy’s to restore his team’s five point advantage, but Caomhin O Daimhin and Tomas Toland there was just three between the sides entering the final quarter.

St Malachy’s Centre forward Shea Lynch put the gap out to four on 46 minutes, when Diarmaid Mac grabbed the only goal of the game Laochra Loch Lao were back in contention. The Laochra fans were in full cry when Aaron Strain brought them level, and when corner forward Oisin McCrabhagain edged the in front for the first time in the match in the 55th minute the scene was set for a thrilling finale.

There pressure was well and truly on St Malachy’s at this stage, but they found an answer when it was really needed and Anthony Dobbin pointed to bring his side level. Extra time appeared to be on the cards, but Ciaran Vernon proved the hero of the hour when he sent over the winning score to book a semi-final place in two weeks time.

Favourites Rasharkin on course for the double

Graham Tarmac JFC Group 2

Rasarkin 3-15 St Malachys 0-05

Division 3 league winners Rasharkin remain on course for the double following this comprehensive victory over St. Malachy’s on Friday night. Rasharkin started brightly with Ryan Lynch raising the first point of the day after only a minute but St Malachy’s responded with a point of their own to level the game.

St. Mary’s began to settle and they struck in devastating fashion with a goal from Colm Kennedy and when Ruiri O’Boyle struck with a second in the12th minute they took control of the game.

 St. Malachy’s responded through two pointed frees but points from Ryan Lynch and Shane Hasson started to put daylight between he sides. The visitors were starting to turn on the style and the impressive Lynch added two more points to extend their lead.

It seemed only a matter of time until a third goal arrived and Rasharkin finished the half with a great team goal as Donagh Quigg fired high into the top corner of the net

Half time score: Rasharkin 3-06St Malachys 0-03

The second half started much the same as the first and Ryan Lynch pointed an early free to extend the St. Mary’s lead. Four further points would follow, 0-3 from the impressive Lynch and 1 from Fearghal Kennedy with St Malachy’s rallying with points in 43d and 50th minutes as Rasharkin emptied their bench.

Rasharkin finished the game strongly and added further points from Oran McMullan, Oisin Casey and top scorer Lynch to run out convincing winners.

Notable performers on the night for the men from Dreen were Ruairi O’Boyle, Colm Kennedy, Cormac McMullan, while Ryan Lynch was in impressive scoring form for the South West side and   Rasharkin now advance to the championship semi-final.

Despite this heavy defeat all is not yet lost for the men from the Markets as they qualify for the quarter-finals

Rasharkin team

1 Andrew Hasson

2 Pearse Kelly

3 Conor Hasson

4 Fergus Quigg

5 Fearghal Kennedy

6 Donagh Quigg

7 Cormac McMullan

8 Thomas McMullan

9 Ruairi O’Boyle

10 Shane Hasson

11 Oisin Casey

12 Oran McMullan

13 Colm Kennedy

14 Tiernan O’Boyle

15 Ryan Lynch

16 Conor Higgins

17 Pearse McTague

18 Cathal Mooney

19 Eamonn McNeill

20 Daniel Doherty

21 Ethan McAfee

22 Darach Duffin

23 Brian Og O’Neill

Rasharkin scorers

Ryan lynch 0-10 5f

Oran McMullan 0-02

Oisin casey 0-01

Colm kennedy 1-00

Donagh Quigg 1-00

Shane Hasson 0-01

Fearghal Kennedy 0-01

Ruairi O’Boyle 1-00

Rasharkin subs:

Cathal Mooney for Thomas Mc Mullan 26 mins

Pearse McTeague for Fearghal Kennedy 38 mins

Daniel Doherty for Tiernan O’Boyle 48 mins

Conor Higgins for Conor Hasson 48 mins

Referee: Paul Burns (St Comgalls)

Runaway win for O’Donnell’s

Graham Tarmac Junior Football Championship

O’Donnell’s 4-21 St Agnes 0-2

O’Donnell’s once again impressed in the Junior Football Championship on Friday evening when they ran up a big score against St Agnes at MacCrory Park, the Cardinal’s men winning by 4-21 to 0-2 to secure a place in the semi-finals.

Playing with the breeze at their backs O’Dee’s started on the front foot and were 0-5 to 0-0 ahead after seven minutes, the scores coming from Sean Pat Donnelly, Joe Wilson (2) Cialan Walsh and PJ Meena. Midfielder Conal Turley got the Aggies on the scoreboard but two more from PJ Meena and one from right half forward Keelan Loughran stretched the O’Donnell’s lead to seven.

The Aggies were struggling to hold on and they got hit with a real killer punch when O’Dee’s grabbed three goals in five minutes through Ciaran McKissack, PJ Meena and Gearoid McKernan to stretch their lead to 3-11 to 0-1 at half time.

St Agnes had more possession in the second half but they could not convert into scores and O’Donnel’s kept picking off the points with Walsh, McKernan, Loughran adding to their totals. St Agnes goalkeeper Martin Duffy made a few good saves to keep the home team at bay, but five minutes from time he was beaten by substitute Conor Walsh who fired home his team’s fourth goal.

It is sad to see the Aggies struggle so much, a club with a great tradition and hopefully we will see an upturn in their fortunes soon.

O’Donnell’s treasurer Joe McKearney presents a sponsorhip cheque to Bert Trowlan of Saffron Gael before their JFC game with St Agnes at MacCrory Park