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Three Finals in Antrim and Derry


Sleacht Néill's hurlers celebrate success. Will their footballers book a place in the SFC decider.

Autumn. Fómhar. The traditional Irish harvest time. In Antrim and Derry, the reaping continues this weekend with three finals to be decided.


Time to cast an eye over the weekend's fixtures in both counties.


Saturday 5th October


Premier Electric Derry JFC Final

St Colm's GAC Drum v O'Connor's GAC Glack

Celtic Park

2:00pm

Sean McGuigan


The action gets underway early with the Derry JFC at Celtic Park.


St Colm's are among the most decorated Junior sides in Derry but seven years have passed since their last title in 2012. The Drum men defeated their 2016 tormentors St Aidan's in the Semi-Final, eventually prevailing 0-11 to 0-08 against a well-drilled Magilligan side.


That Semi-Final place was confirmed in the same venue as tomorrow's final as they survived a resurgent Doire Colmcille challenge to seal a two point win with late points from Niall Ferris and Seamus O'Kane.


Ferris and O'Kane will no doubt be crucial again tomorrow while Kevin O'Reilly's free-taking accuracy will be needed to out-score a Glack side who are no stranger to a white flag. Or a green one for that matter.


O'Connor's come into the final in a rich vein of scoring form, having hit 8-48 on their way to tomorrow's final.


Glack wrote seven different names onto the scoreboard as they overcame Sean Dolan's to book their place in the last four and progressed to the final with a facile 4-12 to 0-04 over 2018 finalists Moneymore.


Cormac Boyle is often the fulcrum of the Glack attack, with captain Niall McGowan's driving runs raising panic among defences. Eddie McLaughlin anchors the defence while the athleticism of Ciaran Carmichael and James O'Connor provides the link-men between defence and attack.


This game has the potential to be a high-scoring encounter with both sides confident in their respective attacks. Glack have been largely untroubled throughout the campaign and have scored handsomely, but the challenges that have been thrown at Drum could give them a more competitive edge coming into the final.


Verdict: Drum



McFeely Group Derry IFC Semi-Final

O'Brien's GAC Foreglen v St Malachy's GAC Castledawson

Owenbeg

5:00pm

Gregory McWilliams


Having come through an early replay against Faughanvale, O'Brien's go into tomorrow's Semi-Final having played one extra game than opponents Castledawson.


St Malachy's opened their championship by winning a dour encounter against Craigbane at a rainy Owenbeg, but there was plenty to admire about their performance.


Rían Convery led the line well, hitting 0-03 in the process while Conor Taggart and Luke Doyle were excellent in the half-forward line.


Foreglen's Kevin O'Connor hit 1-06 in the opening round draw with Faughanvale and is played a starring role in their Quarter-Final victory over Doire Trasna. He will be pivotal once again for O'Brien's, while Cahir and Sean work around him to pick off scores of their own.


Having eventually fallen to eventual champions and fierce rivals Banagher in last year's competition, Foreglen will have a burning desire to reach this year's decider and although Castledawson look well-equipped to match that challenge, O'Brien's could find themselves one game from redemption.


Verdict: Foreglen


Larkin Cassidy Solicitors Antrim IFC Final

Naomh Séamas Aldergrove v St Ergnat's Moneyglass

Quinn Park, Portglenone

5:00pm

Cathal McDermott


Moneyglass again return to Portglenone, scene of their victories in the first two rounds of this Antrim IFC, to face Naomh Séamas of Aldergrove.


St Ergnat's came within a whisker of earning Division 1 status, losing out in a play-off to St Mary's Ahoghill, but in championship action they have been scintillating.


An opening-round victory spearheaded by Colum Duffin was followed by a five-point win over Randalstown and their place in the final was confirmed with a hard-fought win over surprise-package Con Magee's Glenravel.


Sean Kelly usually wears number 2, but roves forward to devastating effect and supports the clinical work being undertaken by Colum Duffin, Conaill Prenter and Patrick McCormick in attack.


A thrilling comeback from Naomh Séamas saw them defeat All Saints' in their opening match of the IFC, Seamus McGarry and Ronan Hanna leading the charge, before the Crumlin side saw off St Paul's in the Semi-Final.


McGarry is the focal point of the Naomh Séamas attack but is ably assisted by Brian McQuillan's midfield industry and the back-line is shored up by Ferdia Carson.


Although Naomh Séamas finished in the bottom half of Division 2, the previous season saw them competing at the very top before a late fading in form.


They took the points in Moneyglass in 2018 and have the potential to cause them problems, but St Ergnat's are a different prospect this season and should have enough to take the title.


Verdict: Moneyglass


O'Neill's Derry SFC Semi-Final

St Mary's Banagher v O'Donovan Rossa Magherafelt

Owenbeg

6:30pm

Damien Harkin


2018 Intermediate champions Banagher have been the story of this season's championship campaign. With no wins behind them in the league, St Mary's shocked Bellaghy in the opening round before seeing off a fancied Swatragh side in the Quarter-Final.


Magherafelt opened their campaign by dethroning the 2018 champions Eoghan Rua, an Emmett McGuckin goal proving the difference, before Rossa saw off Ballinascreen in their Quarter-Final.


Both sides have an array of talent at their disposal. Peter Hagan's composed attacking play often opens the most watertight defence, while in Tiarnan and Niall Moore they have dangerous options inside. Gavin O'Neill and Brian Óg McGilligan link play well and Mark Lynch continues to be, well, Mark Lynch.


Cormac Murphy played a starring role for Rossa in the last round, rounding the keeper to seal a fine attacking move and the performances of Jared Monaghan in midfield have driven his side on. Shane and Danny Heavron's clinical shooting is a weapon and in Conor Kearns they have a marauding half back.


Rossa will come into the clash as favourites but Banagher appear to have the Midas touch in all codes at the minute, their hurlers and camógs victorious last weekend. Momentum is a powerful tool.


Verdict: Banagher


Sunday 6th October


McFeely Group Derry IFC Semi-Final

St Matthew's Drumsurn v John Mitchel's Claudy

Owenbeg

3:00pm

Mark McGeehan


Claudy's opening round provided huge drama as they drew with Steelstown in Celtic Park. The Mitchel's men saw off their city opponents in the replay, before overcoming a lacklustre Lissan in the Quarter-Final.


Drumsurn dismissed Slaughtmanus comfortably in their opening round before triumphing in a tight battle with rivals Ballerin in the last eight.


Daryl Mullan and Pearse McNickle lead the way for St Matthew's and hit 1-07 between them in their opening-round victory over Slaughtmanus, while Tiarnan McHugh, fresh from county hurling final defeat against Slaughtneil, could play a part.


Goal machine Aaron Kerrigan is the name that immediately sticks out on Claudy's teamsheet and the forward is in the form of his life this season. He hit 1-05 in the Quarter-Final against Lissan to add to his already burgeoning tally. Blaine Carlin and Marty Donaghy also carry a scoring threat that Drumsurn of which Drumsurn will have to be aware.


Claudy have already claimed the Division 1B title and a return to the top flight and will be keen to add one more piece of silverware to their cabinet, but Drumsurn will not go lightly.


Verdict: Claudy


Northern Switchgear Antrim SFC Final

Erin's Own Cargin v Lámh Dhearg

Corrigan Park, Naomh Eoin

3:30pm

Sean Laverty


Current holders Erin's Own Cargin put their title on the line against 2017 kingpins Lámh Dhearg at Corrigan Park on Sunday.


With banished memories of last year's decider resurfacing like aftershocks, Antrim Gaels are anticipating a more open game this time out.


Cargin have advanced to the final with wins over Rossa and St Gall's, the former surprisingly causing them more problems than the latter, but the Hannahstown men were entangled in a gripping trilogy with Portglenone after defeating Ahoghill and Creggan.


With their post-replay free kicks contest infamously brought to a premature end by chairman Ciaran McCavana, the Red Hands prevailed at a damp Ballymena as recently as Monday.


Fatigue could be forgiven, but Cargin manager Damian Cassidy extolled the virtues of the Lámhs' path to the final in an interview with The Saffron Gael during the week. You imagine in the confines of the dressing room, though, he'll be highlighting his side's freshness. That level of competition and tension is bound to take a toll, even on the victors.


Erin's Own are back-boned by the usual wealth of experience and talent. Michael McCann continues to lead by example, while defender Kevin O'Boyle is delighted to be involved once again. Young guns Jamie Gribbin and Ciaran Bradley have another season of senior football under their belts, while Tony Scullion and Ciaran Close continue to excel.


Lámh Dhearg had a Paddy Cunningham brace to thank for finally seeing off the Casement's challenge and 'Hands' continues to perform for the Hannahstown men. John Finucane captains the side from between the posts, while in front of him Declan Lynch and Michael Herron are solid in defence.


It is hard to point to a weakness in either side, with a plethora of county medals and intercounty appearances bolstering both squads.


Cassidy's Cargin are serene in possession and pounce when the opening arises, while Lámh Dhearg are relatively unchanged from the side who saw off St John's in 2017.


It has the potential to be an outstanding game. We did say that last year too, but without the suffocating parochial rivalry to contend with, we may well get it this year.


Verdict: Lámh Dhearg


O'Neill's Derry SFC Semi-Final

Watty Graham's Glen v Eméid Sleacht Néill

Owenbeg

4:30pm

Barry Cassidy


Back in August Sleacht Néill welcomed champions elect Glen to Emmet Park. Glen had led all season, playing some sparkling football in the process. The Emmet's blew their rivals away, two Shane McGuigan goals helping them to a 3-21 to 0-12 victory and retaining the league crown.


The championship has followed this ominously familiar pattern. Glen have been excellent in their two games to date. In their opener they dismissed a difficult challenge from The Loup, having been reduced to 14 men, before overcoming 2018 finalists Lavey in a controlled Quarter-Final performance.


The rotation of their main men in key roles has seen defences struggle to deal with their threat. In the opener Emmett Bradley helped himself to 0-06, while against Lavey Ciaran McFaul took up the baton, the midfielder pivotal in victory.


Sleacht Néill opened their campaign with a workman-like win over Newbridge before another controlled performance saw them dismiss Ballinderry in the Quarter-Final, Christopher Bradley's goal sealing victory.


There is quality everywhere. Alex Doherty hammered home a goal against Lavey for Glen and is joined in attack by the tricky Tiarnan Flanagan, Danny Tallon and Paul Gunning. With Ethan Doherty and Conor Carville chipping in from defence, they will pose a threat.


The Emmet's threat is well-documented but equally difficult to deal with. Chrissy McKaigue continues to be talismanic while Shane McGuigan has been consistently outstanding for college, county and club for the last twelve months. Pádraig Cassidy bristles in midfield while Karl McKaigue continues to shut down opposition attackers.


Glen will have revenge on their mind after the league finale and their response has been two impressive championship victories, but Sleacht Néill have taken last year's dethronement and upped the ante. Their hurlers battled to a 7th title in a row last weekend and that winning culture has been re-cultivated.


Verdict: Sleacht Néill


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