LOCC Solicitors Antrim IFC Final
Gort na Móna v Naomh Éanna
Division 2 side Gort na Móna come into this weekend's Antrim IFC as underdogs against a much-fancied Naomh Éanna, the sole Division 1 representative in this season's championship.
The Turf Lodge men have built up plenty of momentum on their way to Saturday's decider. Their campaign got off to a flying start in the Bear Pit where they saw off Naomh Séamas, who at the time were jostling for position at the summit of Division 2.
Gort recorded a comfortable 2-15 to 1-09 victory, with goals from Shane Scullion and Dermott McVeigh dismissing the Aldergrove men. McVeigh was again central to the action in their Quarter-Final meeting, his late goal breaking Dunloy hearts for the second time in three days to book a place in the last four for the Belfast men.
Sean McKenna's men then dispatched All Saints' Ballymena in the Semi-Final, McVeigh yet again continuing his impressive record of scoring in every round of the competition, netting the first of two, with Pádraig McHugh tucking away a penalty on the way to an eventual two-point victory.
Naomh Éanna began their campaign against St Paul's in the opening round. After recording a comfortable victory they took on Davitt's in Ahoghill, securing a 25-point victory that was of benefit to neither side.
St Ergnatt's Moneyglass were expected to run them closer than they did in the Semi-Final, but goals from Eoin Nagle and Conan Lyttle saw them ease home with a 2-10 to 1-04 victory in Hannahstown.
Neither of these sides are goal-shy, having hit a clinical fifteen championship goals between them during the campaign, six for the Turf Lodge men and nine for Naomh Éanna. The goals flowed freely during their respective league campaigns too, with Gort na Móna hitting 26 goals while propelling themselves into promotion contention.
Frank Fitzsimon's men fired to the net 24 times during the league campaign, and the faithful that make their way to Corrigan Park on Sunday will very reasonably expect to be entertained.
Naomh Éanna will be encouraged by the return of Joe Maskey to action. The talented midfielder suffered a broken foot in county hurling action in the same venue as Saturday's match earlier in the season. Peter Healy won a Sigerson medal for UCD back in the spring, and although a tight-marking corner back, operates with more freedom for his club side, while Paddy Flood also has intercounty experience.
While Dermott McVeigh and Pádraig McHugh will be key players for the Turf Lodge men, the mobility of Dessie McLean in the forward line has the potential to cause any defence problems. Darren Boyd has the strength and guile to pick a pass, while Brendan Corr drives the team on from defence.
Saturday's game should have all the edge a Belfast derby usually provides, but both teams have match-winners of sheer quality in their forward lines that could see this game become hugely entertaining and high-scoring.
Naomh Éanna will begin the game as favourites, but their path to the final has been facile in comparison with Gort na Móna's, and the added grit and determination that they have had to find could give them a slight competitive edge coming into the final, and with a good start, the Turf Lodge men could be returning to Páirc Mhic Ionnrachtaigh with a shiny visitor in tow.