A big weekend is in prospect, with the McGuigan Builders Intermediate Football Championship Final taking centre-stage. There are also two big Minor Football Championship games down for decision, while two Monaghan clubs are in action in Ulster club hurling championships.
McGuigan Builders Intermediate Football Championship Final
Carrickmacross v Corduff, Sunday, 3.30, Clontibret
It’s a south-Monaghan derby in the McGuigan Builders Intermediate Football Championship Final at O’Neill Park, Clontibret this Sunday, when Carrickmacross and Corduff go head-to-head.
Two divisions separated these teams last year, but Corduff have come a long way in the last year. Carrickmacross were a senior club for the last four years and they had a great campaign in 2008 – winning a first-ever Senior Football League and reaching the county championship final – but they were surprisingly relegated last year. Carrick will be seeking to complete a quick return to the top flight today, while Corduff are targeting a second successive promotion. The Gaels won the Junior Football Championship last year and went on to win the Ulster JFC, only to have the title stripped from them for using an ineligible player.
Both teams have gone through the ‘front door’ to get to today’s final. Carrickmacross were relieved to edge past Seán McDermotts by the narrowest of margins in the IFC first round. The Emmets welcomed Stephen Gollogly, who had missed the Seáns game through injury, back into the team for their second-round game against Aughnamullen and he top-scored with 1-4 to inspire his team to a comfortable victory. It was a Gollogly goal just before half-time that gave Carrick control against a wasteful Tyholland team in the semi-finals and they pulled away in the second half to win with relative comfort.
Corduff started off with a comfortable win over Éire Óg, before edging past Donaghmoyne to qualify for the semi-finals, where they were relieved to escape with a draw against Rockcorry, thanks to a late free by Keith McEnaney. The Gaels made the most of their second chance when they eased to a seven-point victory in the replay, which stretched their unbeaten championship run to 15 games, going back to 2009.
Carrick have scored 3-38 in three games (an impressive average of almost 1-13 per game), just three points less than Corduff’s total of 4-38 in four games, which is an average of 12.5 points per game. Both defences have been very tight to date, as Carrick have conceded just 3-18 (a match average of 1-6) and Corduff have leaked 1-27, a mere 7.5 points per match.
Carrick have led the way in the Intermediate Football League throughout the year and they are currently four points clear at the top of the table with 26 points from 16 games, while Corduff have also been flying high and their 20 points leaves them almost assured of a semi-final place.
Carrick have a team well capable of competing at senior level, with as many as seven players who have county senior experience. They are particularly strong up front, with quality forwards like Stephen Gollogly, Mark and Seán Downey and Andrew Callan. James Conlon and Peter O’Hanlon are strong, capable players around midfield, while Mark McNally and Gary McEnaney anchor the defence, with the support of Eoin Sherry and Owen McNally.
Corduff’s defence has been spearheaded by Ciarán Brennan at full-back, but he went off injured in the semi-final replay, making him a doubt for today and his absence would be a big loss. Shane McNally Jnr. and Ben Woods have also been in good form in defence, while the powerful Declan Larkin is an option at either centre-back or midfield, where they will hope to have captain Shane Connolly back after he missed both Rockcorry games. County Under-21 Keith McEnaney is the main man up front for Corduff, while Martin Mills, Raymond Byrne, Pádraic Keenan and Shane Malone can also make and take scores.
It is set to be a particularly interesting afternoon for the McEnaneys, with cousins and even brothers playing on opposite sides. Gary McEnaney, who returned from Australia in time to play in the semi-finals, could be given a man-marking job on his cousin Keith. Another interesting side-note is that both teams have players doubling up as part of management teams, with Andrew Callan a selector for Carrick and Raymond Byrne Corduff’s joint-manager.
Carrickmacross have been in five Intermediate Football Championship finals, winning three and losing two. Their most recent final was in 2006, when six points from the trusty left boot of Andrew Callan led them to victory over Monaghan Harps. Corduff have only been at this stage once, when they beat Inniskeen in 1998, featuring a few players who will be lining out again today.
Corduff have been the most improved team in the county in the last 18 months or so, but this test could be a step too far for them against a Carrickmacross team who should have enough quality to secure their return to senior level.
Carrickmacross IFC scorers 2011: Andrew Callan 0-13 (7f); Stephen Gollogly 2-6 (0-4f); Mark Downey 0-9 (4f); Seán Downey 1-2; Séamus Mulholland, Cillian Cromwell (2 ‘45s) 0-2 each; James Conlon, Paddy Lonergan, Ciarán Ward, John McMenamin 0-1 each.
Corduff IFC scorers 2011: Raymond Byrne 3-4 (0-4f); Keith McEnaney 0-11 (8f); Martin Mills 0-8 (3f); Declan Larkin 1-1; Shane Malone 0-3; Jason Hand (2f), Pádraic Keenan, Brendan McNally (2f) 0-2 each; Shane McNally Jnr., Cathal Connolly, John McEnaney, Shane Connolly, Ciarán Brennan 0-1 each.
Maguire Transport Minor Football Championship Division Three Final
Cremartin v Donaghmoyne, Sunday, 1.45, Clontibret
The curtain-raiser on Sunday in Clontibret sees Donaghmoyne and Cremartin contest the Maguire Transport Minor Football Championship Division Three Final.
Donaghmoyne booked their place in this game with wins over Clones and Aughnamullen, while Cremartin saw off Corduff and Blackhill. This is the fourth meeting of these teams this year, with Donaghmoyne having won two and drawn one so far.
Donaghmoyne, who are also involved in the Minor Football League Division Three Final which was postponed last weekend, will be looking for big performances from Fergal Keenan, Niall Garland and Conor and Joe Finnegan. Cremartin can call on county minor captain Johnny McGuigan, who helped the club’s senior team to JFC success earlier this year, as well as a number of players who were on their Under-16 league-winning team.
Both of these clubs lost Under-16 championship finals in the last week – Donaghmoyne against Magheracloone after a replay in Division Two and Cremartin against Aughnamullen in Division Three – so they will both be keen to atone for that on Sunday. Donaghmoyne have won their last eight games in the league and championship, including a seven-point win over Cremartin in the MFL semi-finals, so they look to have hit top form at the right time, which should be enough for them to win this one.
Maguire Transport Minor Football Championship Division Two Semi-Final Replay
Magheracloone v Rock Sarsfields, Sunday, 12.30, Aughnamullen
League winners Rock Sarsfields renew acquaintances with Magheracloone on Sunday when they contest the second replay of their MFC Division Two Semi-Final saga.
Rock Sarsfields (an amalgamation of Rockcorry and Killeevan) had a convincing win over Seán McDermotts in the quarter-finals, while Magheracloone got a bye. Just a point separated the teams in the MFL Division Two, where Rock Sarsfields finished second with 16 points and Magheracloone third with 15. The teams have now met five times already this year, with the results being one win for each side and three draws, so these teams have built up a keen rivalry this year. Magheracloone won the first league meeting by double-scores, but Rock Sarsfields beat them in the MFL Division Two semi-finals, before beating Killanny in the final last Sunday. Over 140 minutes of this MFC semi-final has been unable to produce a winner, as the sides have drawn twice, including after extra-time in the first replay.
Rock Sarsfields can call on a number of players who featured for the county minors this year, such as Mark McGuirk, Fergal McGeough, Lorcan Smyth, Keelan Clerkin and David Graham, while Magheracloone will be depending on Killian Rudden, Jamie Kieran and David Kirk.
AIB Ulster Club Intermediate Hurling Championship First Round
Castleblayney v Kilclief, Sunday, 3.30, Newry
Castleblayney travel to Páirc Esler on Sunday to take on Kilclief from Down in the Ulster Club IHC first round.
After losing out to Inniskeen, who went on to win the Ulster JHC, in last year’s county final, Blayney regained the Monaghan SHC title this year. Blayney beat Truagh and Inniskeen fairly comfortably to return to their traditional place at the summit of Monaghan hurling, which qualified them for another tilt at the provincial intermediate championship, a competition they have entered before without success. Blayney are also through to the Monaghan SHL Final, their third final of the year after they reached the decider of the Ulster Club League Division Three. Kilclief, who are also preparing for an Intermediate Football Championship final, saw off Shamrocks, Ballela and Liatroim to win the Down IHC.
Blayney have an ace in their pack in the form of free-taker Mickey McHugh, who will be supported up front by the likes of Barry Reilly, Fergal Rafter and Brian McGuigan. Gary Boyd, Peter and Mark Treanor and Paul Murphy are other key players for Blayney. Kilclief have players of the quality of Down hurler Fintan Conway, player-manager Colin Shields and Ciarán Sloan, but this is their first Ulster championship game and Blayney’s greater experience could see them through.
AIB Ulster Club Junior Hurling Championship First Round
Monaghan Harps v Na Magha, Sunday, 3.30, Celtic Park
Monaghan Harps hurlers are also away on Sunday when they take on Derry city side Na Magha in the Ulster JHC.
Inniskeen won this competition last year after winning the Monaghan county championship, but because Castleblayney lifted the SHC this year, it left a place open for the Monaghan shield winners to enter the junior championship. The Harps lost to Truagh in the first round of the Monaghan SHC, but they had a comfortable win over Clontibret in the shield final. The Harps will be without a few players who helped them to win that shield and the RHL earlier this year, but they should be able to call on the likes of Aidan Óg McAnespie, Shane Smyth, Aidan Connell and Raymond, Alan and Jack Lee.
Na Magha competed in Division Three of the Ulster Club SHL this year and they had a six-point win against Lisnaskea in the Ulster preliminary round last Sunday. Na Magha’s main man is county player Brendan Quigley, who hit 11 points against Lisnaskea, as well as goal-scorer Daryl Connolly and Alan Grant and Lee Hawkins, who also have county experience. These clubs recently met in a very different format at the Kilmacud Crokes All-Ireland sevens shield, when Na Magha won their shield group game.
The final round in the Drumlin Group of Credit Unions Senior Football League takes place on Saturday, with home advantage in the semi-finals the only issue to be resolved. New leaders Magheracloone are at home to Truagh, while their nearest challengers Ballybay and Latton also have home advantage – against Doohamlet and Scotstown respectively. Elsewhere, Clontibret travel to Castleblayney and Monaghan Harps are away to Inniskeen.
There is one game in the Monaghan Electrical Intermediate Football League on Saturday, when Éire Óg and Rockcorry meet, with both teams needing points for different reasons. Éire Óg must win to hold on to any chance of staying up, while Rock need a result to keep their semi-final bid alive.
In the Gerry’s Takeaway Junior Football League, Emyvale host Killanny under lights on Friday night and there are three games on Saturday, when Aghabog, Killeevan and Oram have home games against Toome, Clones and Blackhill respectively.
Aughnamullen host Clontibret in the second semi-final of the Platinum Tanks Reserve Football League Division Three on Saturday, with a place against Killeevan in the final on offer, while there are games in Divisions One and Two of the RFL on Sunday.
On the juvenile scene, the Gerry’s Prepared Veg. Under-14 Football League Finals take place in Clontibret and Scotstown on Saturday, with the two venues hosting seven games between them, starting at 11am. Gavan Duffy Park in Monaghan hosts the Under-16 Hurling Championship Final on Sunday at 12 noon, when Truagh will be attempting to complete a double at the expense of Clontibret.
Three Monaghan clubs are also in action in Ulster ladies championship games. Inniskeen are away to St. Pat’s, Donagh (Fermanagh) in the JFC on Saturday. Monaghan Harps are also up against Fermanagh opposition when they host Lisnaskea in the IFC on Sunday, whike Donaghmoyne are at home to Belfast superclub St. Gall’s in the SFC.