Updated: Nov 12, 2019
AIB Ulster JHC Final
Eoghan Rua (Doire) v Newry Shamrocks (An Dún)
Eoghan Ruadh, Dungannon
Colm McDonald – Naomh Gall (Aontroim)
After the postponement of last week's fixture amid a deluge at the Dub, Newry Shamrocks and Eoghan Rua were forced to retreat home, having been mid-journey as the news filtered through.
But not even cold November rain lasts forever and they are preparing to do battle again this weekend.
There is a big-town feel to this weekend’s Ulster JHC Final as representatives from Coleraine and Newry head to Mid-Ulster and Eoghan Ruadh, Dungannon for the decider. The Mourne men are embarking on their first ever Ulster final.
Paths to the Final
Newry Shamrock’s road to the decider began in Crossmaglen where an unlikely goal sealed victory, Jordan Murphy turning in a high Ryan Courtney ball with his head as it dropped into the penalty area.
Their Semi-Final in Ballela was another tense occasion as Newry put Antrim champions Gort na Móna to the sword. The Down side held their lead confidently throughout the game and the intensity of their performance never allowed the Turf Lodge men to settle.
If the Shamrocks’ path was bumpy and intense, then Eoghan Rua’s was a Sunday cruise on the Causeway Coastal Route. The Coleraine men accounted for Mullahoran with ease at Owenbeg, registering 1-27 in the process.
They followed up that victory with an impressive 0-21 in their Semi-Final victory over Inniskeen, but despite their hurling looking sharper with each passing game, there are question marks hanging over the quality of opponent they have encountered.
In contrast to their opponents, Eoghan Rua have been here before. They are no strangers to the Ulster scene in either code and won this very competition back in 2016, a year in which they went on to reach the All-Ireland Final, losing out to Glenmore of Kilkenny.
Matthew Mee v Dara Mooney
Matthew Mee had the unenviable task of picking up the free-scoring Desi McClean in the Semi-Final and the young corner back rose admirably to the task, limiting McClean to just 0-02 from play.
Although credit must go to his team-mates who cut out the supply, holding the Gort na Móna flier to just two points is no mean feat.
His involvement with the club’s minor footballers limited his hurling appearances, but Dara Mooney announced his arrival with a 0-03 haul in the Semi-Final and his influence tortured the Inniskeen defence. Mooney has the ability to link together the dangerous Eoghan Rua forward unit and will need watched closely by Mee.
Gary Courtney v Ruairí Mooney
Dara’s brother Ruairí will line out at full-forward on the back of an excellent championship campaign so far. With 0-14 from play, the bustling attacker is both score-taker and provider and his physicality means he can operate comfortably as the target man.
Mooney will come up against Shamrocks captain Gary Courtney. The towering full-back will relish the physical battle that the Eoghan Rua hitman will bring and watching these two go toe-to-toe will be a fascinating battle.
Ruairí Campbell v Ciaran McGoldrick
One of six brothers on the starting line-up, McGoldrick has caught the eye in championship action with his constant raids on the opposition defence. The wandering half-back popped up with the goal in the closing stages against Mullahoran and has contributed 1-04 so far.
His role could be under scrutiny on Saturday as he comes up against Ruairí Campbell of Newry Shamrocks. The half-forward hit 0-03 against Gort na Móna and caused endless problems for their defenders who struggled to deal with his attacking threat.
Don’t be surprised though if Aidan Boyle is tasked with picking him up to allow McGoldrick to bomb forward.
Eoin McGuinness v Colm McGoldrick
This is possibly the most intriguing battle of all. McGoldrick, the deep-lying playmaker. McGuinness the all-action centre-forward.
The Eoghan Rua centre-back’s toughest task of the championship came in the Derry final where he picked up Déaglán Foley but the two games since have seen him showcase his passing ability. Given time on the ball, McGoldrick has the composure to pick out one of several attacking options.
McGuinness though has the threat and pace to put McGoldrick on the back foot. No one is yet to trouble the Eoghan Rua rearguard by running at them directly and the Shamrocks centre-forward could be the man to ask that question.
Artie McGuinness v Sean Leo McGoldrick
Eoghan Rua’s scoring spread has looked very healthy over their three games, but centre-forward Sean Leo McGoldrick remains their talisman. Scoring contribution aside, his intelligent movement creates space and opportunities for his fellow attackers.
In tracking him, McGuinness will need to be wary of both assets, while avoiding conceding soft frees anywhere in the scoring zone. A tough ask, but this could be another battle worth watching.
Experience v Hunger
Eoghan Rua are widely regarded as Intermediate standard in both Derry and Ulster and have been installed as favourites by virtue of both their pedigree and experience.
However, vanquished Antrim champions Gort na Móna have also been described in such terms and the Shamrocks will be encouraged by their confident victory a fortnight ago in Ballela.
Much will depend on how effectively the Newry men can attack an untested but extremely well-organised Eoghan Rua defence. Yet to leak a goal in Ulster action, it will be interesting to see how they react if the Shamrocks go for the jugular.
The Down champions will have to deal with the weight of history but their more testing path to the final will give them battle-hardened momentum to bring to Dungannon on Saturday. That said, with a sturdy defence and relentless attack, Eoghan Rua have the tools to finish the job.
Verdict: Eoghan Rua