Dunloy, Ballymena

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Belfast Derby in Ulster Semi-Final


AIB Ulster IHC Semi-Final

Bredagh GAC (An Dún) v Naomh Éanna (Aontroim)

CLG Lámh Dhearg

2:30pm

Aidan Ferguson (Erne Gaels)


It will be a case of crosstown traffic on Saturday afternoon as these two sides converge on Hannahstown. Naomh Éanna will journey from the north of the city while the Bredagh lads will venture from the south to meet in the Ulster IHC Semi-Final.


Neither side is a stranger to an Ulster run. Both sides' footballers were involved in the Ulster IFC last season, with the Hightown men taking home the honours, but it is the small ballers who take centre stage this season.


After securing the Antrim ACHL Division 2 title, Naomh Éanna's came through the gruelling battlefield of the Antrim IHC.


A 20-point drubbing of Cloney Gaels preceded an attritional win in the Randalstown rain over Creggan before the north Belfast men breezed past Glenariffe in the Semi-Final. The decider was a trickier affair but Terence McNaughton's men prevailed and condemned Carey to a sixth final loss since 2002.


Philly Curran's 52nd minute goal turned the Ulster Quarter-Final in their favour and Naomh Éannna shocked a fancied Banagher side to reach this weekend's tie.


Bredagh looked to be fighting tooth-and-nail with Gort na Móna for the Antrim ACHL Division 3 title, but their early form faded and they had to settle for 4th. The south Belfast side then battled their way through a four-team group, defeating both Carryduff and Clonduff to set up a final meeting with their neighbours.

Bredagh celebrate their Down title.

Their initial encounter ended in a 1-16 to 2-13 stalemate but it was Bredagh who repeated the 19-point haul in the replay to see off their dogged rivals.


In Ulster they travelled to Castleblayney and emerged with a hard-earned 2-11 to 0-13 victory over the 2018 Ulster JHC winners to earn them a shot at their Antrim league rivals this weekend.

John McGoldrick has 1-40 to his name in this year's championship.

If Joe Maskey's legend marked Naomh Éanna's IFC campaign last season, then John McGoldrick is the unassuming face of their IHC challenge.


With an average of 8.6 points per game, the imposing corner-forward is a devastating threat from placed balls and Bredagh will need to avoid conceding frees...well anywhere really.


McGoldrick is backed up by the creative influence of Eddie O'Connor, while Killian Jennings was first to every ball in the Ulster Quarter-Final and Philly Curran adds guile to the Naomh Éanna attack.

Philly Curran's 52nd-minute goal sent Naomh Éanna en route to victory over Banagher.

The Hightown half-back line of captain Cormac Ross, Mark Donaghy and Joe Maskey is both a solid screen and a formidable counter-attacking threat and one that Bredagh will need to shut down if they are to stand any chance of staging an upset.


Bredagh will look to smiling enforcer Thomas McGuckin to keep tabs on McGoldrick. The former Swatragh man has the physicality and determination to match him in open play, but he will need his team-mates to help him out by exercising extreme discipline in the tackle.


Forward Niall McFarland is a scoring threat for the Down side and will prove a handful for the Naomh Éanna full-back line, while captain Ian Galway and Sean McGourty will hope to make life difficult for their influential half-back unit.


Manager Sean Wilson guided tomorrow's hosts Lámh Dhearg to Ulster JHC success in 2016 and will be hoping for a run at the IHC this time out. Opposite him in the dug out sits former Antrim joint manager Terence McNaughton whose nous was finally able to get Naomh Éanna over the line in Antrim and put them 60 minutes from an Ulster Final.

Bredagh will need a good start and will not be in awe of their opponents having been regular visitors to Glengormley in league action over the last number of years. If they can eradicate sloppy fouls and reduce the influence of John McGoldrick they are very much in the hunt.


While Naomh Éanna were unconvincing in the Quarter-Final, that win over Banagher will have boosted their confidence and training on the Hightown Road is always good preparation for the Arctic micro-climate both teams will face in Hannahstown.


The Down side may catch a glimpse of the Mournes from Páirc Lámh Dhearg on Saturday, but Naomh Éanna have the potential to make them feel a long way from home.


Verdict: Naomh Éanna.


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