The Derry football championships are entering the business end, with the JFC at the last 4 and the IFC and SFC in the final 8. There is a repeat of last season’s SFC Semi-Final between Glen and Lavey, while Moneymore bid to reach back-to-back JFC finals.
A quick snippet of all the games below. Feel free to nod in agreement or pin the predictions to the dressing room wall and call me names.
Friday 20th September
Premier Electric Derry JFC Semi-Final
St Colm’s Drum v St Aidan’s Magilligan
A few weeks ago Drum qualified for the final four with a thrilling victory over Doire Colmcille. A pulsating game played in front of a disappointingly deserted Celtic Park was decided by late scores from Niall Ferris and Seamus O’Kane. Magilligan suffered defeat in their opening group game against Moneymore, but qualified with a victory over Ardmore. St Colm’s experience and spread of scorers could see them over the line.
Verdict: St Colm’s
Saturday 21st September
Premier Electric Derry JFC Semi-Final
O’Connor’s Glack v Henry Joy McCracken’s Moneymore
2018 finalists Moneymore booked their place in the last four of this year’s competition with victories over Ardmore and Magilligan as they topped their group. As they bid for back-to-back final appearances it will be Glack who stand in their way.
O’Connor’s hit a scoring streak in their group games with a total of 4-36 in wins over Sean Dolan’s and Doire Colmcille. Their second game saw them overcome a stiff early challenge from the city men to eventually ease home.
Moneymore’s recent final experience may be a factor, but Glack’s rich vein of scoring form may give them the edge.
McFeely Group Derry IFC Quarter-Finals
St Matthew’s Drumsurn v Sarsfield’s Ballerin
Something of a local derby here as both teams come into the second game of their campaigns. Drumsurn saw off a Slaughtmanus side who had clinched the Division 2 title with 9 points to spare and with a 5th place finish in Division 1B, they’ll be confident.
Ballerin defeated Ballymaguigan in their opener in what was a tight encounter and with the highest score-count in Division 2, Sarsfield’s will be hoping their firepower continues into this game. A tough one to call.
St Michael’s Lissan v John Mitchel’s GAC Claudy
Having performed late heroics to clinch promotion to Division 1B, Lissan make their championship bow against a rampant Claudy.
The Division 1B champions will be entering their third match of the campaign after their opener with Steelstown ended in a thrilling draw. The replay was another score-fest, with the Mitchel’s men prevailing.
Lissan’s strong league campaign sees them come into this match with some good form under their belts but with Claudy on the crest of a goalscoring wave, the favourites seem the more likely.
O’Neill’s Derry SFC Quarter-Final
Davitt’s Swatragh v St Mary’s Banagher
Producing the shock of the round, 2018 IFC champions Banagher dumped a stunned Bellaghy out of the championship in what was their first victory of the year.
The St Mary’s men had a change of management mid-way through what was a tough season back in the top flight, but it appears to have galvanised the squad.
Swatragh made a flying start to the season and were still in contention for the title mid-way through, eventually finishing in 3rd place. In their championship opener, they were comfortable against Glenullin without hitting top gear.
Another tough call. This game has the potential to be another high-scorer, but Swatragh should just have enough.
Sunday 22nd September
McFeely Group Derry IFC Quarter-Final
O’Brien’s Foreglen v Na Piarsaigh Doire Trasna
Devastated to miss out on promotion to Division 1B, the city men set about making amends with a confident victory over Limavady in the opening round, the Pearse’s having 17 points spare.
Foreglen played out an entertaining draw with Faughanvale in their first game, but were much more comfortable in the replay, easing through by 10 points in Owenbeg.
O’Brien’s came within a whisker of promotion to the top flight last year, only Banagher pipping them to the league, while the same side defeated them after a replay on their way to the 2018 IFC title.
They have had an indifferent season in Division 1B with a 6th place finish, while Doire Trasna have had a mainly positive season apart from missing out on promotion. The hunger sparked by that near miss could be enough to see them into the last four.
Verdict: Doire Trasna
O’Neill’s Derry SFC Quarter-Finals
CLG Roibeard Eiméid, Sleacht Néill v Ballinderry Shamrocks
There was an audible ripple of excitement around Owenbeg when this one was announced, with wry smiles as accompaniment. Meetings between these two have a reputation for being feisty.
Slaughtneil looked fatigued last season in both codes, but they roared to the Division 1A league title last month with spare change over closest challengers Glen and their hurlers hit an astonishing 1-32 in championship action last week. The swagger is back, but their victory over Newbridge was slightly laboured in the opening round.
Ballinderry fired six past Dungiven in their opening game and the Shamrocks are coming off the back of an improved league campaign that saw them finish 4th. Their big players are hitting form and this makes for an exciting clash.
Glen will be dubh le daoine on Sunday afternoon and a hugely entertaining game is in prospect. A rejuvenated Emmet’s could just edge it.
Verdict: Sleacht Néill
O’Donovan Rossa Magherafelt v St Colm’s Ballinascreen
An opening-day dethroning of Eoghan Rua saw Magherafelt exorcise the ghost of a soloing Pádraig Cassidy from last year’s championship and book a Quarter-Final slot against ‘Screen.
St Colm’s saw off an early Kilrea challenge to eventually secure a comfortable victory and Liam Bradley’s men have a marquee forward in Shane Mulgrew taking some of the pressure of Benny Heron.
With Rossa’s young players breaking into their squad, the energy of an opening victory could clinch the tie for them.
Watty Graham’s Glen v Erin’s Own Lavey
The prime-time slot this weekend goes to Glen and Lavey in a repeat of last season’s Semi-Final.
On that occasion, Lavey produced a strong first half to lead against the elements and eventually eased into the final, where a belated start saw them lose to Eoghan Rua. They kicked off this year’s championship with a ground-out win over a defensive Greenlough but will face a tougher challenge this time.
Glen were reduced to 14 men early in their opener against The Loup but produced a controlled performance to secure their spot in the final eight. Emmett Bradley led the charge but Watty Graham’s had composed performances all over the pitch.
This also has the potential to ignite and thrill the large crowd it will surely attract.