Football Championships have reached the knockout stages

Football Championship Week-end (9th/11th September)

It’s back to the football championships this week end which features games in all the levels, Senior, Intermediate and Junior over the three days. After the group stages it’s down to sudden death with no second chances for this weekend’s losers.

Just one game on Friday evening with the first quarter final of the senior grade featured with further games in all of the grades scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.

Northern Switchgear Senior Football Championship (quarter finals)

Friday 9th September (7.30pm)

Dunsilly

Erin’s Own Cargin v Lamh Dhearg

The opening game on the championship agenda is certain to attract a big attendance at Dunsilly as Lamh Dhearg and Cargin cross swords in what looks an intriguing confrontation.

Cargin have been favoured by some of the pundits to regain the title following their defeat at the hands of near neighbours Creggan last term but the Toome men have not been at their best recently. They did gain victory over St Enda’s in their opening game but found the going tough next time in defeat to Rossa and improvement will certainly be required.

Lamh Dhearg gained a share of the spoils at Creggan before defeating St. John’s on day two at Hannastown before finishing with another draw against St Gall’s at Milltown on day 3.

Cargin will start as favourites but this looks like a close one with the Toome side given a tentative nod.

Saturday 10th September (5.00pm)

Dunsilly

Casement’s Portglenone v Gort na Mona

Casement’s have impressed in their march undefeated through the group stages and will start this quarter final as firm favourites as they take on Gort na Mona on Saturday evening at Dunsilly.

The Bannsider’s under former player John McKeever have not been unduly troubled to gain their berth in the last eight and they will start this latest assignment in search of a place in the last four as firm favourites.

Gort na Mona have struggled in the league and they have yet to gain a win in the championship but earn a quarter final berth with a superior score difference to Tir na nOg.

Casement’s will go into this one as the firmest of favourites and although their West Belfast based opponents will be aiming to cause an upset it is more than difficult to envisage anything other than a win for the Portglenone men.

Sunday 11th September (1.00pm)

Hannahstown

St Mary’s Aghagallon v St Brigid’s

This looks a close one as last year’s beaten finalists St Mary’s Aghagallon look to take a step further in 2022 as they meet St Brigid’s at the elevated at Hightown.

Having endured a poor league campaign, due mainly to a long injury list and several key individuals travelling Stateside, Aghagallon have shown marked improvement of late and they will hope to continue that form in the championship.

St Brigid’s, have struggled to make the breakthrough in the senior championship despite a long list of continuing juvenile success.

They will possibly look at 2022 as a chance to make good and travel to St. Enda’s with confidence following a good win at Ahoghill in their final group game.

A close one is anticipated, which could go either way with the combatants looking well matched, but a tentative vote is awarded to the South Belfast men.

Hightown (3.30pm)

Kickham’s Creggan (holders) v O’ Donovan Rossa

This last quarter final features defending champions, Kickham’s Creggan take on an in form O’ Donovan Rossa at Hightown.

The South West based champions have not been at their best on their route to the quarter final stages and were pushed all the way at Corrigan last time to earn a draw which secured them a place in the quarter-final.

Rossa impressed in their last game in the group stages with a win over the visiting Cargin and Hugh Mc Gettigan and Paul Close seem to have the dual club really firing on all cylinders.

Creggan will start this one as firm favourites and they may well deliver, but Rossa are more than capable of causing an upset.

O B construction Intermediate Football Championship (quarter-finals)

The Intermediate championship is at the quarter final stage with the sides topping the respective groups enjoying home advantage.

Sat 10th September (3.00pm)

Patrick Sarsfield’s v St Paul’s (Bear Pit)

Following a moderate ‘middle of the road’ showing in league, Sarsfield’s have really hit the ground running in the championship with an unbeaten record in their group and they look contenders for honours.

They completed their group section with a big win over Ardoyne and will hope to carry that form into this quarter final as they welcome near neighbours St Paul’s to the Bear Pit.

St Paul’s qualified by virtue of score difference at conclusion of their group games to gain this quarter final place.

The Shaw’s road side finished on a three way tie with Aldergrove and St Teresa’s and snatched this last eight place just ahead of St Teresa’s, on an eight point score difference.

A close game between these sides which only a fence separates is envisaged with ground advantage for Sarsfields possibly tilting the balance in favour of the Paddies.

St Joseph’s Glenavy v Michael Davitt’s (Chapel Hill)

Having produced a moderate league campaign Glenavy have impressed in the championship to date and it has been a case of best foot forward from the St Joseph’s men.

They won both games in their group, impressive in victory at Ballymena and likewise in a big win over the visiting St Comgall’s.

Michael Davitt’s lost their way somewhat in the league following a positive opening but a win over Rasharkin and a final day defeat at Glenravel set up this quarter final trip to Glenavy.

Glenavy will start this one as firm favourites with home advantage and although Davitt’s are capable of producing better a win for St. Joseph’s does look the most likely scenario.

Sunday 11th September (12 noon)

St James Aldergrove v Cuchullian’s Dunloy (Crumlin)

This all South West encounter sees St James Aldergrove play hosts to Cuchullian’s Dunloy and a close one does look in prospect.

The Crumlin residents topped their group in qualification but only with a superior score difference over St. Paul’s and St Teresa’s.

Cuchullian’s qualified the last eight with wins over Ardoyne and St Patricks and the dual club will travel up to Crumlin fully focused.

Aldergrove have experience a plenty within their ranks and recorded a good win over Dunloy in the league recently but Dunloy look in a positive mode and they may well gain a narrow verdict.

Con Magees Glenravel v All Saint’s Ballymena (Mc Quillan Park)

This local derby sees bCon Magees play hosts to All Saints as former Antrim supremo ‘Baker’ Bradley takes his side to Fr. Maginn Park to play Joe Cassidy’s Glensmen.

Glenravel have had a descent league campaign and were undefeated in their championship group games with wins over Rasharklin and Davitt’s and with home advantage will fancy their chances in this one.

They  had six point to spare at Rasharkin and followed up with a seven point win over Davitt’s at Sunday’s venue to see them finish top of Group 3.

All Saint’s gained their place in the quarter final following a win over St Comgall’s, which followed defeat to Glenavy at Slemish Park in their opening game.

This one could go either way but home advantage may be enough to swing it Glenravel’s way.

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Sat 10th September (3.00pm)

Graham Tarmac Junior Football Championship (qtr. finals)

Patrick Pearses v St Agnes

Patrick Pearses, with a couple of wins in their group games will enter the fray as firm favourites when they entertain St Agnes.

The Aggies recorded a big win when they hosted Mc Quillan’s at Woodlands and were narrowly beaten in their other 2 group 2 games. This looks a more difficult task for Roy McLarnon’s side and Pearses are expected to gain the day and a place in the next phase of the Junior championship.

Laochra Loch Lao v Eire Og

This looks like another close one in prospect as Eire Og travel to meet Laochra Loch Lao with both enjoying a similar profile.

The home side have gained wins over Mc Quillan’s and St Agnes in the group stages and may well add another victory en route to the next round.

Aggies book their place in the quarter finals

Graham Tarmac Junior Football Championship Group 2

St Agnes 4-16 Ballycastle 0-9

Four goals from Ronan Carroll booked St Agnes’ a place in this year’s junior championship quarter-finals.

After coming out on the wrong end of two close games encounters with St Malachy’s and Laochra Loch Lao respectively, the Aggies easy saw of the challenge of the McQuillan’s to keep their season alive.

St Agnes’ were on top all over the field but Carroll’s four goal blast will grab most of the headlines. In fact, with a little bit more composure in front of goal, Carroll could easily have had another 1-3.

He will no doubt have nightmares about a chance that went abegging in the 13th minute.

With the tie delicately poised at 0-3 to 0-2 in his sides favour, Carroll found himself bearing down on goal with only Ballycastle netminder Eamon Butler to beat. But instead of picking his spot, Carroll went for the chip and his effort bounced the wrong side of the post and out.

Eoin Magee who was Ballycastle’s top scorer

But by half-time Carroll was well on his way to making up for that miss as his 22nd minute goal opened up a seven-point lead. His first time shot to the roof of the net giving Butler no chance whatsoever.

Ballycastle to their credit battled gamely over the hour, but with a playing squad of just sixteen, and a lack of competitive football this year, this was always going to be a tough ask.

St Agnes’ tactic of isolating Carroll in the full forward line was working a treat.

Constant long ball from the middle sector was giving the visitors defence headaches from the opening minutes, with Dylan Cunningham, Conall Turley and Neill Gillespie wasting no time in getting the ball into their target man.

Gillespie was impressive over the hour for the Aggies while Mark Caldwell and Paul McClenaghan also put in great shifts over the hour.

Eoin Magee converted two early frees to keep Ballycastle in the tie but once Ronan Carroll gave St Agnes’ the lead for the third time in the 12th minute there was no looking back.

His second point came courtesy of a sublime ball from Gillespie, and this was quickly followed by a fine individual score from Turley.

McClenaghan then assisted Carroll for his first major as the home side began to turn the screw and at the break the Aggies lead 1-7 to 0-3.

Ballycastle started the second half with a bit more purpose and after winning the throw-in Brian McLernon set up Magee for his third point of the game.

Feargal McKiernan then saw a goal bound shot turned away by Aggies custodian Callum Carroll as Ballycastle went all out to claw their way back into the contest.

But there was to be no second-half fight-back from the visitors as St Agnes’ rattled off the next three points before Carroll finished to the net for a second time in the 46th minute for a 2-10 to 0-5 lead.

Replacement Ciaran Flannery kicked the first of his three points almost immediately before Carroll completed his hattrick in the 52nd minute finishing emphatically past Butler.

Efforts from Shane Farrelly, Magee and Ciaran McAuley helped bring a little bit of respectability to the Ballycastle tally, but the last word was had by Carroll who coolly fished to the net in the final minute from Turley’s pass.

Teams:

St Agnes: Callum Carroll (0-1), Patrick Carroll, Ryan Reilly (0-1), Killian McCormack, Brendan McLarnon, Mark Caldwell, Dylan Cunningham, Kealan McAllister (0-1), Euairí Howarth, Conall Turley (0-2 1f), Declan McLarnon (0-1), Neill Gillespie, Paul McClenaghan (0-1), Ronan Carroll (4-2), Cormac McBride (0-3).

Replacements: Ciaran Flannery (0-3) for McAllister (38), Paul Kennedy for B McLarnon (48), James Halleron for Gillespie (48), Paddy Toner (0-1) for D McLarnon (52), Peter McCullough for McCormick (52).

Ballycastle: Eamon Butler, Niall McDermott (0-1), Conor Donnelly, Eoin Boylan, Ciaran McAuley (0-1), Shane Farrelly (0-1), Oisin Donnelly, Eoin Magee (0-4 3f), Lorcan Donnelly, Tadgh Donnelly, Feargal McKiernan, Stephen McGill, Callum Campbell (0-1), Brian McLernon, Frank McCaughan.

Replacement: Eddie McGuigan (0-1) for McDermott (44).

Referee: Martin Quinn (Naomh Éanna)

Semis spot secured by O’Donnells

Graham Tarmac Junior Football Championship – Group 1

Saturday 27th August

Report by Niall Kelly 

Cardinal O’Donnells 3-06   Na Piarsaigh 2-02

The men from MacRory Park solidified their position in this year’s Junior Football Championship with seven points to spare against a crestfallen Pearses side on Saturday. O’Donnells were simply more efficient and economical in the business end of the pitch as they despatched the majority of chances that fell in their favour. The visitors will rue a wasteful evening in front of the sticks though as promising build up play was rarely capitalised on with wayward shooting a recurring theme throughout the sixty minutes.

The first half was somewhat abrasive as the Belfast natives were trying to figure each other out. Both teams searched for penetrative avenues of attack but the killer pass or finishing touches were lacking in the opening exchanges. Kevin Kennedy eventually raised the first white flag of the afternoon in style as he latched on to Stevie Seawright’s pass before caressing a superb effort between the posts from an acute angle.

Pearses were carving opportunities but failing to capitalise. After a spate of frees missed their mark, midfield dynamo Piaras Donaghy was put on placed ball duty and duly obliged chipping over from range on the fourteenth minute to level proceeding.

O’Donnell’s recaptured the lead a mere minute later thanks to the capable Padraig McKissock and the hosts would refuse to relinquish the lead for the remainder of the game. On the twenty second minute, the men in maroon and yellow dealt a hammer blow to their opponents when John Rafferty’s long range pass somehow found its way into the back of the despairing Niall Largey’s net as the defence seemed to lose the flight of the ball on its path to goal.

The visitors responded well though and Cormac O’Neill pointed beautifully after a surging forty yard run to leave the scores 1-02 to 0-02 at Danny O’Neill’s short whistle.

Pearses started the half brightly and seemed galvanised by the interval. They constructed some crisp passing moves off the shoulder but again were found wanting with the finishing. Half-time substitute PJ Meenan made them pay emphatically though as he timed his jump perfectly to fist home to the net from Padraig McKissocks lofted pass. Pearses though replied with vigour and raised a green flag of their own in response as Fionn Grew palmed to the net after industrious work from Liam Deegan on the sideline.

The hosts sought to respond and again Meenan was on hand utilising his blistering pace as he finished a flowing move with a well taken point before Ciaran Ferran stroked a succulent effort off the outside of his boot between the posts. The visitors responded positively though and grabbed their second major of the game on the fiftieth minute. Another fortuitous goal if truth be told and a near mirror version of Rafferty’s first half effort as Liam Deegan’s long range free somehow nestled in the top corner of Conor Murphy’s net.

With the deficit now down to two points, O’Donnells dug deep to withstand the barrage of Pearses’ charges surging forward and launched a few of their own counter attacks. Scott Thompson sent over a superb effort from range which was followed quickly by another McKissock score.

Subsitute Darragh Walsh though hammered the final nail in the coffin of the North Belfast outfit as another high ball in caused havoc in the Pearses rearguard. Walsh was alert and anticipated the drop of the ball before poking in courageously to send the home faithful into rapturous applause.

A job well done from the hosts. They will await the winners of Laochra and Éire Óg with anticipation in their semi-final showdown. Pearses will no doubt be somewhat despondant with this defeat but will be buoyed by the fact that they created an array of chances. If they can find their shooting boots in the next one, they are more than capable of joining the O’s in the semis but will face a stiff test from Naomh Úna who will also fancy their chances.

Teams

O’Donnells:

C Murphy; C Doherty, J O’Donnell, J McKenna; G McKernan, S Seawright, K Kennedy (0-01;) S Thompson (0-01,) C Walsh, J Rafferty (1-00,)  C Walsh, C McKissock; K Loughran, P McKissock (0-02,) M Close

Substitute scorers: PJ Meenan (1-01,) D Walsh (1-00,)  C Ferran (0-01)

Pearses

N Largey; D O’Neill, A Goodall, C McCavana; C O’Neill (0-01,)  A Bannon, N Gorman; R Bannon, P Donaghy (0-01;) C Hughes, P Murray, S Moreland; F Grew (1-00,) L Deegan (1-00,) O Grew

South Antrim secretary and former O’Dee’s manager Joe McVeigh looking very dapper as he watches the action from the sideline on Saturday

Eire Og claim quarter-final berth with win over Wolfetones

Graham Tarmac Antrim JFC Group 1 

Eire Og 2-13-0-10 Wolfetones, Greencastle 

Kevin Herron reports from Woodlands 

Eire Og claimed a quarter-final place in the Graham Tarmac Antrim Junior Football Championship with a 2-13-0-10 win over Wolfetones, Greencastle at Woodlands on Friday evening.

Defeats to O’Donnells and Pearses respectively had meant that the duo went into the clash without a point and knowing that a win would extend their season for another two-weeks and defeat would mean the clash would be their last hour of football in 2022.

Eire Og were first off the mark a few minutes in when Niall Ward dropped a high ball into the edge of the square where Brendan Shannon gathered, unable to get the shot away himself- Shannon offloaded to Kevin Clarke to swing over the opener. 

Former Antrim midfield star Enda McAtamney was cheering on the Tones from the sideline

Ward floated over his sides second shortly after and things got much better when Greencastle goalkeeper Danny McIvor was stripped off the ball as he advanced outfield by P James Toal- who in turn quickly picked out Ronan Donnelly to fire into the empty net and give the hosts a 1-02-0-00 lead. 

Greencastle responded with a fine point through Cillian Cumiskey, but back-to-back frees from Toal and a point from goal-scorer Donnelly had Eire Og further clear. 

Successive points from Eoin McKee and Gerard McDonnell closed the deficit slightly for the visitors and the half concluded with both sides trading points from frees with Brendan Shannon and McDonnell on-hand to convert respectively as Eire Og held a 1-06-0-04 advantage at the midway point. 

The hosts extended their lead upon the resumption, Conor McKenna was impeded as he tried to burst forward- though he was able to steer a pass off to Niall Ward to drop a shot over the bar. 

Gerard McDonnell kicked his third point of the evening from a 45’ in response and would land a second in-between a Ronan Donnelly point as the sides cancelled each-other out in the opening exchanges.

Midway through the second half Greencastle had a lifeline when referee Darren McKeown signalled for a penalty. 

McDonnell seized responsibility but his low effort was parried by the foot of Joseph George, the corner-forward advanced to the rebound but could only scoop his effort over the bar rather than into the net. 

A converted McDonnell free had a goal separating the sides with little over ten minutes remaining, but Eire Og sprung back into gear. 

Conor Ellis dropped a shot between the posts and played the providers role in Ronan Donnelly firing over his third point of the evening. 

Greencastle briefly put a stop to the hosts momentum through an angled point from Eoin McKee, though the next two scores of the game would put the tie beyond doubt. 

Niall Ward swung over a nice point before déjà vu struck as P James Toal profited from Danny McIvor losing the ball and he fired into the empty Greencastle net to give his side a 2-11-0-09. 

Talisman Gerard McDonnell replied from a free and it would prove to be his sides last of the evening as Eire Og finished the game out with back-to-back scores. 

This was despite the hosts being reduced to 14-men when scorer of the second goal- P James Toal was black-carded. 

Conor McKenna floated a shot over for the 14-men and soon Greencastle’s numerical advantage was wiped out when Eoin McKee received a similar punishment to Toal for a deliberate pull-back. 

Niall Ward would finish the evenings scoring as Eire Og ended claimed the elusive win and quarter-final spot that went with it

Eire Og: J George, D Murray, K Ryan, J Devlin, C Rice, R Donnelly (1-03), C Ellis (0-01), A McKnight, T Malone, C McKenna (0-01), P James Toal (1-02, 0-02f), S Erskine, K Clarke (0-01), B Shannon (0-01f), N Ward (0-04). Subs: M Duffy for D Murray (42), D Campbell for B Shannon (49). 

Wolfetones, Greencastle: D McIvor, F McQuillan, D Moloney, D McGovern, N Brannigan, C Burrows, K Moloney, S McKee, E McKee (0-02), M Connor, C Cumiskey (0-01), J Parke, K McCallion, D O’Neill, G McDonnell (0-07, 0-03f, 0-02 45’). Subs: O Hassan for M Connor (40), M McCann for K McCallion (52),T Austin for K Moloney (60). 

Referee: Darren McKeown (St Galls)

Connor crushes Laochra as St Mal’s cling on to seal top spot

Graham Tarmac Junior Football Championship – Group 2

Friday 26th August

Report by Niall Kelly 

St Malachy’s 1-07    Laochra Loch Lao 1-06

A potent and inspired second half performance from talismanic forward Aidan Connor proved to be just enough to drag St Malachy’s over the finishing line and in doing so secured top spot and a plain sail straight to the semi-finals. The number fifteen burst into life in the second period notching up a personal tally of 1-05. Connor was the sole scorer for his side in the second half which perfectly illustrated just how crucial he was in earning this hard fought victory over a dogged and resilient Laochra side.

Dáithí Mac Gabhann with the Laochra Loch Lao goalkeepers before Friday nights JFC game with St Malachy’s at Cherryvale.

The first half was somewhat a war of attrition and scores were at a premium. The hosts endured a frustrating thirty minutes as they couldn’t make their superiority in attacking positions count and amassed a sizable wide count. The men in black and yellow started brightest and moved the ball around well with midfielder Ciaran Vernon so often the fulcrum of their attacks. Creating chances was no problem for St Mal’s but despatching them proved to be an unwanted theme of the first period. Laochra made them pay for their lack of composure in front of the posts and took the lead on the fifth minute with Caoimhin Ó Daimhín popping over to finish a flowing counter-attacking move. Padraig O’Prey doubled the lead four minutes later when he nonchalantly chipped over a long range free off the deck.

St Malachy’s eventually got their bearings right when Anthony Dobbin pointed spectacularly after industrious work from Jack McGivern. Three minutes later Paul Carlisle got on the end of a Ciaran Vernon pass from a quick free to split the posts and level matters. There was a somewhat tempestuous atmosphere for the remainder of the half with a few off the ball altercations as both teams battled hard to gain the ascendancy only for the wide count to continue to increase.

Just before Martin Quinn’s short whistle, the visitors dealt a significant blow to their South Belfast counterparts. The ever-dangerous Caoimhin Ó Daimhín finished off a fine, flowing attacking move to the net, fisting in a cross-field pass from Padraig O’Prey to leave the scores 0-02 to 1-02 at half-time.

St Malachy’s emerged a more potent and composed side in the second thirty though and were spearheaded by the cultured right foot of Aidan Connor. Barely two minutes into the half and Connor stamped his authority on the game unleashing a thunderous effort into the top left corner of the despairing Seán Ó Heachaín’s net to deadlock the scores once again. Connor’s ingenuity in front of the posts were on show three minutes later as his curling effort saw his side take the lead for the first-time in the game. 

The Gaeilgeoirs responded well though and instantly replied through a fine score from Conchúr Mag Eacháin as he fired over from range before Padraig’ O’Prey doubled his tally on the fortieth minute from another placed ball and their lead was restored.

With only the bare minimum separating the sides, nerves were on edge and the game was becoming increasingly cagey. The perfect cue for Connor to seize the initiative yet again as he pointed two placed balls with great composure before adding another from a tight angle to give his side a two-point lead heading down the final straight. With little time remaining, Laochra’s charges were bombing forward desperately in search of scores and Conchúr Mag Eacháin found his range perfectly but on the sixtieth minute the two point lead was restored as Connor replied yet again to a roar of adulation from the home faithful.

Martin Quinn’s whistle couldn’t come soon enough though for the hosts though as Laochra ensured a nerve-wracking injury time period. Jack MacIomhair’s pointed with seconds remaining before Caoimhin Ó Daimhín was bundled over in the scoring zone and a free was awarded. St Mal’s waited with baited breath but the resultant kick veered wide agonisingly for the visitors and it proved to be the last action as the final whistle sounded to trigger scenes of euphoria for the home faithful.

St Malachy’s can now focus on training and preparation with their semis slot secured. This hard-fought victory will only serve them well in future. Laochra, although no doubt despondent about the manner of their defeat, will get back to the drawing board and prepare for their showdown against Éire Óg for the right to earn their own semi-final berth.

Teams:

St Malachy’s:

S Turley; C Corr, S Carson, P Hanna; D Quinn, C Connolly, D Casey; A Dobbn (0-01,) C Vernon; J McGivern, P Devine, R Maneely; P Carlisle (0-01,) K McCavana, A Connor (1-05)

Laochra Loch Lao:

S O Heacháin; M MacEachaidh, C MacGafraidh, D MacThom; E Ó Coinn, C Ó Coinn, É Ó Ceallaigh; C Ó Ceallaigh, J MacIomhair (0-01;) C MagEacháin (0-02,) A Ó Straitheain, T Ó Tuthalain; P Ó Tiarnaigh, P O’Prey (0-02,) C Ó Daimhín (1-01)