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
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.
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.
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.