Dunloy, Ballymena

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Uncharted Waters for Naomh Éanna

Monaghan champions Doohamlet meet their Antrim counterparts at Corrigan Park on Sunday in what promises to be a keenly competitive encounter.

Doohmalet completed a league and championship double with their one-point victory over Sean McDermott's in the Monaghan IFC Final and will compete in next year's Monaghan Senior League and Championship.

In what proved to be a tense final, they were almost made to rue their missed chances, seeing thirteen efforts sail wide of the target, but they ground out the result to land their fourth IFC title since 2010.

St Enda's clinched their IFC title on the back of a strong showing in this season's Antrim Division 1, where they made a solid start, including a victory over county champions Cargin to see them sit in the upper echelons of the league. A mid-season dip in form saw them in the bottom half after the split, but a late-season surge and championship run allowed them to finish top of Section B.

The Glengormley men coasted through the early rounds of the championship as they took on a number of teams from Division 2, with their experience in the top division ultimately proving decisive as they defeated an impressive Gort na Móna side in the Antrim final.

Doohamlet Manager Dessie McBennett is no stranger to success with the club, having guided them to Junior titles in 1999 and 2001 before adding a brace of Intermediate titles in 2012 and 2018.

The Monaghan side are captained by goalkeeper James Casey, while county players Colin Walshe and Barry McGinn are recognisable names on the Doohamlet team sheet. Midfield partner Jamie Walshe starred in the county final, hitting 0-02 in an influential centre-field performance, while Barry McBennett is in a rich vein of scoring form for the Farney men.

While the experience of Ciaran McManus, Martin Hughes and Niall Connolly will be invaluable, the Monaghan champions have a strong influx of youth on their side, with Hugh McGinn on the scoresheet in the final.

Odhran Eastwood had a fine game in the Antrim IFC Final against Gort na Móna. Pic: John McIlwaine.

In former county manager Frank Fitzsimons, Naomh Éanna have an astute tactician on the sideline and the midfield engine of Joe Maskey and Phillip Curran provide power and experience to the Glengormley side. Odhran Eastood and Peter and Kristian Healy will hope to lead the charge in their forward unit, while captain James McAuley will drive his team forward from centre-back.

St Enda's captain James McAuley in county final action. Pic: John McIlwaine.

Although both sides shaded narrow victories in relatively low-scoring finals, their campaigns have produced several high-scoring performances, with a combined championship haul of 21-122 (St Enda's 9-50, Doohamlet 12-72). With the pressure cooker of a county final behind them, will both teams be able to get their free-flowing game going in the Ulster series?

First time winners St Enda's have become accustomed to the tag of favourites throughout this season's campaign, but will enter this contest as slight underdogs given Doohamlet's championship pedigree.

The Hightown men's familiarity with the venue could be a significant factor on Sunday afternoon, but having competed in the Ulster series in 2010, 2012 and 2015, the Farney champions will be confident of coming away from Corrigan Park with their passage to the Semi-Final safely secured.

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