Monaghan’s senior ladies footballers are in the All-Ireland final on Sunday, but before that there are two Senior Football Championship semi-finals and two Minor Football League finals to be played, as well as a number of league games.
Gormley uPVC Senior Football Championship Semi-Finals
Magheracloone v Scotstown, Friday, 8.15, Inniskeen
Ballybay v Latton, Saturday, 7.15, Emyvale
Scotstown and Magheracloone go head-to-head in the SFC semi-finals for the second year in a row on Friday night in Inniskeen
Magheracloone won that clash after a replay, but of course, suffered heartbreak in the final, where they were pipped at the post by Clontibret in another replay.
Scotstown started the season very slowly, but they have raised their game as the season has gone on, helped considerably by the return from injury of Kieran Hughes. Having been involved in a scrap towards the bottom of the league table for most of the campaign, Scotstown have moved up to the safety of mid-table and they have kept their best performances for the championship, where they have gone through the front door with wins over Castleblayney and Ballybay.
Magheracloone have overcome the significant obstacle of the absence of Tommy Freeman to qualify for another semi-final and they will have the experienced forward back from America for this one. It looked bleak for last year’s runners-up when they slumped to a heavy defeat against Truagh in the first round, but they have turned it around to beat Doohamlet (in extra-time) and Inniskeen before avenging last year’s defeat to Clontibret last time out.
The return of Kieran Hughes has added another dimension to the Scotstown attack, with Hughes himself in fine goal-scoring form and also creating space for the likes of Paul Grant and Nicholas Corrigan. James Turley, Francis Caulfield and David McCague give the north-Monaghan plenty of power around midfield, with Darren Hughes providing strength and a good outlet at number six, in front of the likes of Donal Morgan and Eddie Beggan.
Damien Freeman’s excellent form in attack has softened the blow of the absence of his brother Tommy, while Gavin Doogan has recently returned from a long-term injury to boost their midfield, which had been weakened by the loss of both Gavin and Francie Doogan (who emigrated last winter.) Paul Farnan has grown into his midfield role for the Mitchells, while James Ward has been consistent as ever at centre-back and Paudie Finnegan has shown well at full-forward.
Little will separate these teams in what should be a very physical clash, but Tommy Freeman’s return could be the boost Magheracloone need to qualify for their fifth SFC final since 2005.
Latton will attempt to qualify for their fifth SFC final in nine years when they take on neighbours Ballybay in the semi-finals.
Latton, who have won the Mick Duffy Cup twice and lost two other county finals since 2003, have lost just once in their last 17 league and championship games and they have ground out low-scoring wins over Doohamlet and Clontibret to reach another SFC semi-final. Ballybay started their championship campaign confidently with wins over Monaghan Harps and Truagh, but they suffered a setback when they lost heavily to Scotstown. They bounced back last time out, however, to beat Castleblayney.
These teams have both also qualified for the Senior Football League semi-finals, with each on 25 points from 17 games. Ballybay have led the way for most of the year, but they rested their first-choice players in last Saturday’s defeat to Monaghan Harps, allowing Magheracloone to overtake them at the top and Latton to draw level in second place.
Latton have an effective mix of youth and experience. Owen Lennon and Aidan Farmer have a long-standing strong partnership in midfield, while they have options up front in Owen Duffy, Hugh McElroy, Bernard O’Brien and Shane Coyle and at the back in Kieran Duffy, Edmund Lennon and Owen Coyle.
Ballybay’s main strength lies in their excellent forward line, which features the experience of Paul Finlay and Hugh Malone (if fit), alongside the youth of Christopher and Shane McGuinness and Thomas Kerr. They will hope to have Drew Wylie back from injury to boost them around the middle of the field and Fergal Smyth to anchor their defence at full-back, but Latton’s greater experience should help them through to another county final.
GRM Minor Football League Division One Final
Carrickmacross v Clontibret, Saturday, 2.00, Oram * Note change of venue
Carrickmacross and Clontibret clash in the MFL Division One Final on Saturday in Oram – please note change of venue from Ballybay.
Clontibret, who are also through to the MFC decider, finished second in the league table before edging past Truagh in the semi-finals, while Carrick took the long route to this stage after finishing in a three-way tie for third place. The Emmets lost to Truagh in the first play-off, but they battled past Scotstown to qualify for the semis at the second attempt, where they had a narrow win over Castleblayney. The two league meetings of the teams to date saw them win one game each.
Clontibret are worthy favourites, with players of the calibre of Conor Boyle, Conor Lavelle, Brian Greenan, Liam Savage, Aodh Curran and Shane Hughes in their team and they know how to win at this level, having lifted the MFC last year. Carrick showed against Blayney that they will be far from a soft touch, but they will need Cillian Cromwell and John McMenamin on top of their game if they are to cause another upset.
GRM Minor Football League Division Two Final
Killanny v Rock Sarsfields, Saturday, 2.00, Drumhowan
The MFL Division Two Final sees Killanny defend their title against Rock Sarsfields in Drumhowan.
Killanny, who beat Corduff in last year’s final, have had another fine year. The south-Monaghan men finished top of the league and they beat Na Fianna (Éire Óg and Tyholland) in the semi-finals, while they are also safely through to the championship final. Rock Sarsfields (an amalgamation of Rockcorry and Killeevan) finished second in the table, before getting past Magheracloone in the league semis. Their attention in recent weeks has turned to their championship semi-final against Magheracloone, which has gone to a second replay, but for now their full focus will be on this game. Killanny conceded their first league game against Friday’s opponents, but they ran out four-point winners in the second match.
Killanny have had great success at underage level in recent years and they can call on promising players like the Duffy twins, Ronan and Tiernan, as well as Cillian and Dermot Leegan and Michael Vernon. Rock Sarsfields have a number of players who featured for the county minors this year – Mark McGuirk, Fergal McGeough, Lorcan Smyth, Keelan Clerkin and Gerard Graham – so a closely-contested game is in prospect, but a fresher Killanny team may take advantage of Rock Sarsfields’ recent exertions.
The Minor Football League Division Three Final between Clones and Donaghmoyne has been postponed due to a bereavement.
Silver Hill Foods Senior Hurling League Semi-Finals
Castleblayney v Monaghan Harps, Saturday, 5.00, Castleblayney
Truagh v Inniskeen, Saturday, 5.00, Truagh
Castleblayney will be looking to take a step towards completing a senior hurling double when they host Monaghan Harps in the SHL semi-finals on Saturday.
Despite losing to Patrick Sarsfields in the Ulster Club Senior Hurling League Division Four Final last Friday, Blayney are still on a high after regaining their SHC title the previous week and they will be big favourites to win this one and advance to another final. Blayney finished five points clear at the top of the SHL table, having gone through their ten games unbeaten, while the Harps finished fourth. The Harps have had a reasonable year themselves, winning the Reserve Hurling League and the Senior Shield, but they have already lost heavily to Blayney twice this year.
Blayney will hope that Mickey and Jim McHugh, Peter and Mark Treanor, Fergal Rafter and Paul Murphy can continue their fine form, while the Harps will need Alan Ryan, Raymond, Alan and Jack Lee and Aidan Connell on top of their game.
SHC beaten finalists Inniskeen have the chance to bounce back from their defeat to Castleblayney by qualifying for the SHL decider at the expense of Truagh.
Truagh beat Inniskeen in their last meeting at St. Mellan’s, but both sides had already booked their place in the semi-finals at that stage and the Grattans had won their previous clash. Truagh have continued to make progress this year, beating Monaghan Harps to reach the SHC semi-finals where they lost to eventual winners Castleblayney and with players like Pat O’Connell, John McAnespie, Conor McGinnity, Niall Cadden and Daniel McKenna, they can give Saturday’s game a good go. Inniskeen may have lost their championship title, but they can still retain the league and they should have enough to make it through, with the likes of Trevor Hilliard, Séamus Loftus, Paul Meegan, Michael Lennon and Pauric Dowdall among their ranks, even though Ronan Meegan is suspended after being sent off against Castleblayney.
The Monaghan Electrical Intermediate Football League continues on Saturday. League leaders and championship finalists Carrickmacross are away to Aughnamullen, while their nearest challengers and JFC Final opponents have a home game against Rockcorry, who they beat in last Friday’s semi-final. Currin will be looking to continue their good form when they travel to Donaghmoyne, while there is also a north-Monaghan derby between Tyholland and Seán McDermotts, who are both involved in a congested mid-table.
There are also a number of games down for decision in the Platinum Tanks Reserve Football Leagues. Toome host Blackhill in Division Four on Saturday, while there are early starts for Sunday’s games. In Division One, bottom-of-the-table Cremartin travel to Magheracloone, while Oram is the venue for the game between Castleblayney and Cremartin. In Division Two, Donaghmoyne and Drumhowan have home advantage against Tyholland and Corduff respectively, before Carrickmacross and Doohamlet go head-to-head under lights in Inniskeen on Tuesday evening. There is also a Division Three fixture on Wednesday, when Emyvale use their floodlights for a game against Killeevan.
Cremartin will be attempting to complete an Under-16 Division Three double when they take on Aughnamullen in the championship final at Blackhill on Saturday, while Inniskeen hosts the Gerry’s Prepared Veg. Under-16 Football Championship Division Two Final replay between Donaghmoyne and Magheracloone on Tuesday. There are also a number of Under-14 Football League semi-finals to be played this weekend.