Castleblayney’s hurlers contest an Ulster final this Sunday, while the domestic fixture-list takes a big leap towards completion with finals in the Senior Football League and Divisions Two and Three of the Reserve Football Leagues, as well as semi-finals in the Intermediate Football League.
Drumlin Group of Credit Unions Senior Football League Final
Clontibret v Latton, Sunday, Scotstown, 3.30
Latton will be attempting to complete a senior double for the first time in their history when they take on Clontibret in the SFL Final on Sunday
Defending champions Latton go into this game on a high after they followed up on their SFC success by edging past Ballybay in the league semi-finals last Sunday. The O’Rahillys have lost just once in their last 22 games in Monaghan, leaving them on the brink of a history-making success. They also have a tilt at an Ulster title to look forward to and they will have an extra couple of weeks to prepare for their first-round game against Glenswilly after Clontibret had won four out of five championships coming into this year, but defeats to Latton and Magheracloone ended their hopes of retaining the title at the quarter-final stage. They recovered to secure fourth place in the SFL, however, before grinding out a hard-earned win away to Magheracloone in the semi-finals. These teams have met regularly in both league and championship in recent years. Clontibret were one of only two teams to win away to Latton in the SFL this year, but Latton had an impressive win in the return fixture and of course, they also beat the O’Neills in round two of the SFC.
Latton’s winning run has been built on the foundation of a very tight defence, which features Kieran Duffy, Owen Coyle and Edmund Lennon, while they also have a very strong midfield pairing in Owen Lennon and Aidan Farmer, as well as options up front in the form of Owen Duffy, Hugh McElroy, Shane Coyle and Bernard O’Brien. Conor McManus is the star man up front for Clontibret, who also possess quality all over the pitch in the likes of Dessie and John Paul Mone, Paul McGuigan, Vincent Corey, Colum Greenan and Darach Mooney. Clontibret will be fired-up for this one as they look to get one over on the new county champions, but Latton’s momentum and winning mentality could see them retain the Owen Ward Cup.
AIB Ulster Club Intermediate Hurling Championship Final
Castleblayney v Middletown, Sunday, Newry, 3.00
Castleblayney will be attempting to win the Ulster Club IHC for the first time when they face Middletown from Armagh in the final at Páirc Esler on Sunday.
After losing to Inniskeen last year, Blayney regained the Monaghan SHC title this year – their 11th title in 13 years – before adding SHL success last Saturday. Although they had previously won the Ulster JHC, Blayney had never won a game in the intermediate championship before this year, but they have rectified that by beating Kilclief from Down and Lisbellaw of Fermanagh to reach the final. It took real character for Blayney to come from 11 points down and outscore Lisbellaw by 4-6 to 1-1 in the second half of their semi-final, with their five goals coming from a Hugh Byrne hat-trick and a Fergal Rafter brace, easing the scoring burden on Mickey McHugh.
Middletown represent a step-up in quality of opposition, however, as the had an impressive win in the Armagh final against Keady, who shocked many by going all the way to the Ulster SHC decider last year. Middletown had a comfortable win over Carrickmore of Tyrone in the Ulster first round and they defeated a fancied Lámh Dhearg from Antrim in the semi-finals.
Middletown competed in Division One of the Armagh hurling league this year – a division above Blayney – and they also played in Division 1A of the Ulster Club SHL, while Blayney were in Division 3B.
Blayney have an ace in their pack in the form of free-taker Mickey McHugh, who has averaged just under 12 points in four championship games to date this year, while Fergal Rafter, Barry Reilly and Hugh Byrne (more noted as a goalkeeper, but currently playing at corner-forward) have stepped up in the absence of Stephen Lambe. Gary Boyd and Peter Treanor have built up a good partnership in midfield, with Paul Murphy, Jim McHugh and Mark Treanor the main men in defence. Middletown also have a number of players with county experience, many of whom helped Armagh to win the Nicky Rackard Cup last year. Their star men are Ryan Gaffney, Kieran McKernan, Martin Mone, Martin Maguire and Conor and David Carvill.
Blayney have had a very progressive year to date, but this one is likely to prove beyond them.
Castleblayney championship scorers 2011: Mickey McHugh 1-44 (0-32f, 0-6 ‘65s); Fergal Rafter 2-10; Hugh Byrne 4-2 (2-0f); Barry Reilly 2-7; Gary Boyd 0-4; Brian McGuigan, David Connolly, Jerry Brady, Stephen Forde 0-1 each.
Monaghan Electrical Intermediate Football League Semi-Finals
Carrickmacross v Rockcorry, Sunday, 2.00, Inniskeen*
Currin v Corduff, Sunday, 2.00, Scotshouse
Carrickmacross will be looking to take a step towards completing an intermediate double when they face Rockcorry in the IFL semi-finals at Inniskeen on Sunday.
Carrick have already won the IFC this year, beating Seán McDermotts, Aughnamullen, Tyholland and Corduff along the way. Wins over Drumhowan, Éire Óg and Donaghmoyne gained a place in the semi-finals for Rock, where they lost to Corduff after a replay. Carrick finished top of the table with 27 points, three places and seven points ahead of Rock, who got the edge on Tyholland in the race for fourth. The Emmets won a league and championship double in 2006 and they have led the way in the IFL throughout this year, so there is no doubt that they have the ability to repeat that achievement.
Carrick have a top-class forward line which features Stephen Gollogly, Andrew Callan and Mark and Seán Downey, while James Conlon and Peter O’Hanlon in midfield and Mark McNally and Gary McEnaney in defence are also key players. Rock will need Noel Carroll, Damien Matthews, Mark and Keith Daly, Stephen McGuirk and Niall McKeown on top of their game if they are to cause a shock. Carrick may have an eye on their Ulster IFC game against Kildress on Sunday week, but if they keep their focus, they are deserving favourites for this one.
The other semi-final sees Currin and Corduff go head-to-head, with both teams needing to win to maintain promotion hopes. Both of these clubs have gone from strength to strength since being promoted from junior football in recent years – Corduff last year and Currin a year previously.
Last year’s JFC winners Corduff beat Éire Óg, Donaghmoyne and Rockcorry to reach the IFC Final, where they lost to Carrickmacross, while defeats to Aughnamullen and Tyholland (after a replay) saw Currin fail to build on their opening win over Rock. Currin bounced back from their championship exit to finish their league campaign very strongly, which saw them finish second and secure a home semi-final.
Dick and Ben Clerkin, Jack McCarron, Gerard and Philip O’Callaghan are the main men for Currin, while Declan Larkin, Ciarán Brennan, Keith McEnaney, Shane McNally Jnr. and Martin Mills will have major parts to play for Corduff.
Just a point separated these teams in the league table and a single point split the sides in their two league meetings, as the first one resulted in a draw, before Corduff won the second by the narrowest of margins. All evidence points towards a very close game and it could well take extra-time to settle it.
Platinum Tanks Reserve Football League Division Three Final Replay
Aughnamullen v Killeevan, Saturday, 3.30, Drumhowan
Aughnamullen and Killeevan battle it out again in the replay of the RFL Division Three Final on Saturday after they played out a 1-7 apiece draw last Sunday.
Aughnamullen finished second in the league table before beating Clontibret in the semi-finals, while Killeevan, who took fourth place, ripped up the form book away to table-toppers Emyvale in the last four. Aughnamullen earlier exited the Crawley Cup at the quarter-final stage with a one-point defeat to Truagh, while Killeevan lost to Blackhill by the same margin in the first round. The teams last met back in March, when Aughnamullen came out on top.
David Flynn, Gerard Graham, Finnian Smith, Johnny McGuirk and Dermot Lynch can play key roles for Killeevan, with Mark and Edmond McArdle, Mickey Keenan, Paul Mulligan and Pauric Bannigan among the main men for Aughnamullen. Aughnamullen have been the more consistent side this year and they have more potential to improve on last week, so they get the nod to add to last year’s Crawley Cup success.
Platinum Tanks Reserve Football League Division Two Final
Ballybay v Tyholland, Sunday, 2.00, Cremartin
Ballybay and Tyholland contest the RFL Division Two Final on Sunday.
Just two points separated these teams in the league standings, where Tyholland finished top with 20 points, two points ahead of Ballybay, who shared second place with Doohamlet. Both sides got real tests in the semi-finals, as Ballybay battled past Doohamlet by two points, before Tyholland squeezed through their game against Corduff by the minimum margin. Tyholland exited the O’Duffy Cup with a first-round defeat to Clontibret (as did Ballybay, who lost to Cremartin), but the north-Monaghan men showed their pedigree by knocking a couple of Division One teams on their way to last year’s final, which they lost to Castleblayney.
Peadar Farrelly, Shane Treanor, Ryan McKenna, Micky McQuaid and Adam Askin are central to Tyholland’s chances, with Shane McGuinness, Ryan Wylie, James Kerr and Cillian McAviney will be expected to lead Ballybay’s challenge. Tyholland have already beaten Sunday’s opponents home and away this year and they have what it takes to finish the job and secure promotion.