Dunloy, Ballymena

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Flurry of Finals this Weekend

Updated: Sep 29, 2019

Ruairí Óg celebrate their 2018 SHC success. Can they repeat it against 2017 champions Dunloy this Sunday?

The club electric bills are gradually reducing as one by one the floodlights are retired for the winter. The dwindling number of players casting long shadows on heavy pitches do so with glee and hope.

There is a glut of finals both sides of the Bann this weekend with hurling taking centre stage. The Junior, Intermediate and Senior Hurling finals in both counties will be decided and with Camogie finals, Junior Football and a Senior Football Replay thrown in, The Saffron Gael's Brendan McTaggart is considering chartering a helicopter.

Anyhow, the predictions weren't too bad last week with the Portglenone v Lámh Dhearg draw the highlight, so I'll give them another go.

Thursday 26th September

Northern Switchgear Antrim SFC Semi-Final Replay

Lámh Dhearg v Casement's Portglenone

The Dub


Conall Delargy is becoming something of a last-minute specialist.

After his equalising point against Naomh Eoin in their Quarter-Final clash, he repeated the trick on Saturday evening, converting the penalty in the dying embers that left his side level and one of his more enthusiastic team-mates head-butting the air in celebration.

The goal ended a fiery encounter that at times threatened to boil over and had seemed to set up a sequel in Ahoghill on Thursday. History repeated itself however and the match was moved to the Dub under floodlights.

The 2017 champions have looked very solid on their three outings so far, dispatching 2018 finalists Creggan en route and have experience all over the pitch with Paddy Cunningham, Michael Herron and county star Declan Lynch joined by the mercurial Ryan Murray in attack.

Portglenone have a more youthful look to their side but the young guns are not shy in pulling the trigger. The two Kellys have been torturing defences alongside Conall Delargy, while Dermot McAleese and Niall McKeever provide solidity in the middle.

The Hannahstown men will be delighted to see the game move to a South Antrim venue, but the Bannsiders will be buoyed by their Coláiste Feirste success over Naomh Eoin and will not shirk the battle.

This will be a case of hardened experience against youthful resilience.

Verdict: Lámh Dhearg. Just.

Saturday 27th September

The Devenish Antrim JFC

Kickham's Ardoyne v Naomh Pádraig Lisburn

Chapel Hill, Glenavy


A third JFC final in a row for Naomh Pádraig as end their championship campaign where it began with a grinding victory over Laochra Loch Lao.

The Lisburn men come into the final on the back of a tough season in Division 2, but have hit some momentum in championship and fired over 1-22 against O'Donnell's in the Semi-Final, with Francis McMeel again hitting form and notching 0-09.

Ardoyne came through a tricky challenge against Ballycastle, who had defied the critics to make the final four and having sealed promotion to Division 2 in some style a few weeks ago, the Kickham's are on the crest of a wave.

Cormac Mullan and Aidan McNeill have been leading the line superbly and hit 0-10 between them in their win over McQuillan's.

In a meeting between two teams passing each other and switching divisions, is this Lisburn's year to end the hurt and clinch the title, or will Ardoyne swoop to collect it on their way up the league?

Verdict: Naomh Pádraig

Casement Social Club Antrim JHC Final

Naomh Pól v Gort na Móna

Lámh Dhearg


St Paul's were the first of these teams to book their place in the JHC final after a late Stephen Rooney point edged their Semi-Final against Glenarm. After breaking Shane O'Neill hearts, the Shaw's Road men had to wait until the following Wednesday to find out their opponents.

Under lights in Ballymena, Desi McClean ran riot to obliterate the early Rasharkin lead, hitting 3-07 of his side's 5-15 as the Turf Lodge side blazed a trail into the Final. Gort na Móna played an expansive game and looked comfortable in victory.

This game is a repeat of the Division 3 decider that saw Gort claim the crown and while St Paul's will no doubt lift their game again for this one, there could well be blazing horns heading down the Upper Springfield Road in celebration on Saturday evening.

Verdict: Gort na Móna

Andersonstown Social Club IHC Final

Carey Faughs v Naomh Éanna

Páirc Mhuire, Cushendall


Neither manager will have far to go for this one as Ruairí Óg men with Aidan Delargy and Terence McNaughton very familiar with the surrounds of Páirc Mhuire.

The Faughs came through a thrilling encounter with Sarsfield's in the Semi-Final, a late John McBride equaliser sending the tie to extra time, where Conor McBride's late goal sealed their passage.

Naomh Éanna were comfortable against Carey's neighbours Glenariffe at nearby St Paul's and had an excellent scoring spread as they won 3-19 to 2-10 in blustery conditions.

The serenely accurate John McGoldrick has had a superb championship campaign and will hope to continue that form into the final, while Eddie O'Connor has been a bundle of energy at half-forward and Joe Maskey continues to raid from half-back.

Conor McBride introduced himself with a bang in the last round and Naomh Éanna will have to divide their defensive charges between him and the ever-electric James Black, while Jams McCuaig should be available after receiving only two yellows the last time out.

Naomh Éanna have been methodically excellent throughout the season and rallied to claim the Division 2 league title. They will hope to emulate their footballers' exploits from last year, but in their way will be a Faughs side who refuse to accept defeat and seem to have abundant reserves of determination.

Verdict: Naomh Éanna

Sunday 29th September

Leadon Timberframe Derry JHC Final

Eoghan Rua v Na Magha



This was to be the final last year, but with their footballers going all the way to the SFC title, Eoghan Rua conceded the tie to the Ballyarnett men.

Their exit at the hands of Magherafelt in this season's competition gives this tie a different complexion.

Na Magha had a tough season travelling to all their Antrim ACHL games and ended the year with defeat in a relegation play-off to confirm a return to Division 4, but they have played far more games than Sunday's opponents.

With only 7 matches under their belts, Eoghan Rua may be rusty, but the timeless talents of the McGoldricks will trouble any team. Na Magha will look to the talented Déaglán Foley and Alan Grant to lead their challenge, with the former a particularly tricky forward to track.

Will the benefit of extra games see Na Magha through to represent Derry in Ulster again or will Eoghan Rua's freshness see them mount another Ulster campaign in the small ball code?

Verdict: Na Magha

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Leadon Timberframe Derry IHC Final

St Mary's Banagher v Davitt's Swatragh



Everything Banagher touch at the minute is turning to glory. Their footballers and camógs claimed dramatic victories last weekend and they will be hoping that rising tide will lift their hurlers this weekend too.

Eoghan Rua fell to Swatragh in the Semi-Final while Banagher defeated Na Magha in their last-four encounter.

It was Swatragh that Banagher dumped out of the SFC last weekend and the Davitt's men will be eager to exact revenge on their conquerors, who contested the 2018 SHC final against Slaughtneil.

That many were surprised to see St Mary's competing at Intermediate level this season tells its own story.

Verdict: Banagher

Leadon Timberframe Derry SHC Final

Kevin Lynch Hurling Club v Roibeard Eméid Sleacht Néill



Richie Mullan's face wore an agonising grimace last year as he watched his last-gasp equalising attempt tail wide in Ballinascreen as champions Sleacht Néill escaped still clutching their trophy.

The Lynch's men are determined to go one better this year and after a nervy first half in the Semi-Final win over 'Screen they blew off any remaining cobwebs with late goals from Mullan and Niall Ferris.

The Emmet's though were ominously ruthless in their demolition of Lavey. Hitting 1-32 in their last four clash, the all-action forward play of Gerald Bradley led the line, but Sleacht Néill had scorers throughout their line-up.

Cormac O'Doherty was again deadly from placed balls before being rested towards the end, but Geoffrey McGonagle's men will have his charges ready to attack an Emmet's defence that Lavey failed to test in the last round.

This could be a case of two teams peaking at the right time to reproduce the rip-roaring exhibition of hits, scores and intensity that marked last year's Semi-Final. Sleacht Néill's swagger is back, but Kevin Lynch's are a wounded animal baying for blood.

Can they heal that wound or will a rejuvenated Emmet's twist the knife?

Verdict: Draw

Bath Shack Antrim SHC Final

Cúchullain's Dunloy v Ruairí Óg Cushendall

Páirc Mhic Uilín, Ballycastle


A repeat of the 2017 final. A rivalry that requires little explanation. The wounded hound battling the experienced warrior.

Buff Egan's customary flair propelled him all the way to the Lurig Inn last year in scenes reminiscent of the last days of Rome, but, should he make it this year, will we see him back in the Lurig or in the confines of the Village Inn?

Last year Dunloy's title defence ran into a savvy Loughgiel challenge and the pre-match shenanigans around the dugout both delayed the throw-in and de-railed the Cúchullain minds.

Another year wiser and Dunloy's young side returned to Ballycastle to exorcise those ghosts by grinding out a victory over the Shamrocks. Not permitted to make the most of their flair players like Keelan Molloy and Conal Cunning in 2018, this year their approach bore all the hallmarks of lessons learned as a more streetwise performance saw them home.

In the preceding game, St John's and Ruairí Óg played out their customary draw, the Cushendall side blowing a lead before eventually having to scramble an equaliser through Fergus McCambridge.

In the replay the 'Dall backs were once again forced against the wall when, rocked by an early Pádraig Nugent goal, they trailed at half time. Experience and the winning habit kicked in during the second half however and the North Antrim side claimed victory with second half goals from McCambridge and Alex Delargy signalling the way.

Cushendall were able to call on the experience and physicality of Ryan McCambridge alongside Donal and Christy McNaughton to turn the tide and with the energy of Stephen Walsh and Paddy Burke in defence clamping down on the Johnnies forwards, they did the needful. They won.

That winning knack has carried this Ruairí Óg side over the line on numerous occasions over the last decade and they will need it once again on Sunday. Dunloy may have been something of an unknown quantity back in 2017 but after that title and back-to-back league triumphs theirs are now household names.

Keelan Molloy has sparkled in both codes and the consistent Paul Shiels and Nigel Elliott continue to make their mark, while Kevin Molloy and Conor McKinley anchor the defence effectively.

Both teams have reason to be confident coming into the game but after the hype that surrounded them last year, the Cúchullain's are coming in quietly to this final and the steel they have added to their game could be enough to see them over the line.

The longer the game stays in the mix though, the Ruairí Óg men will chip away as usual and a tight game is in prospect. If I really have to...

Verdict: Dunloy