The Senior and Minor Football Championship Finals take centre stage on Sunday, while Castleblayney’s hurlers are in an Ulster semi-final. There is plenty of league action on Saturday, including the first SFL semi-final, the MFL Division Three Final and a crucial round in the IFL.
Gormley uPVC Senior Football Championship Final
Latton v Scotstown, Sunday, 3.30, Inniskeen
Latton and Scotstown clash in a Senior Football Championship Final for the very first time when they go head-to-head at Páirc Grattan, Inniskeen on Sunday.
Both teams have taken the direct route through to the final. Latton have battled past Doohamlet, Clontibret and Ballybay; all by narrow margins. They played their ‘get out of jail’ card in the semi-finals, when they looked set to exit the championship at the hands of neighbours Ballybay, finding themselves three points down as time ticked into the final minute of normal time. Latton used all their experience to sneak through, however, thanks to a goal by veteran Kevin Hughes and a point from Owen Duffy.
Scotstown got their championship off to a good start when a brace of goals led them to victory against old rivals Castleblayney and they really served notice of their championship aspirations with a powerful performance against Ballybay, which put them through to a semi-final rematch with Magheracloone, who knocked them out at the same stage last year. It looked set to be déjà vu for Scotstown when they trailed in the second half while playing into the wind and a man down, but they turned it around with great work-rate and another Kieran Hughes goal, which helped them through by the narrowest of margins.
Latton are also through to the semi-finals of the Senior Football League, a sign of their consistent form throughout the year, which has seen them lose just once in their last 19 games, while Scotstown finished fifth with 20 points (six less than today’s opponents). Interestingly, both of the meetings of these teams in the SFL resulted in draws, so this can once again be expected to go to the wire, although the second of those was played last Saturday when both clubs fielded shadow teams.
Latton have a strong and well-organised defence, which is anchored by Kieran Duffy and Edmund Lennon, with support from the likes of Owen Coyle and Stephen Fitzpatrick. They are particularly adept at keeping out goals, as Seán Farmer has only been beaten nine times in 21 league and championship games this year. Owen Lennon and Aidan Farmer have been long-established as arguably the best midfield pairing in the county and while Latton may not have a marquee forward like Kieran Hughes, they have four players who are capable of making and taking scores in the form of Hugh McElroy, Owen Duffy, Bernard O’Brien and Shane Coyle.
Scotstown’s main strength lies around the middle third, where James Turley, Francis Caulfield, David McCague and Darren Hughes can help them win plenty of possession Darren Hughes, who is the only Monaghan man in the preliminary Ireland panel for the International Rules series, is a particularly key player for Scotstown, with his ability to carry the ball at pace and supply possession to his brother Kieran crucial. Stephen Sherry’s performance as a substitute in the Magheracloone game showcased his ability in that sector, although he may be kept in reserve again. Donal Morgan, Mark Duffy and Eddie Beggan are all tight-marking defenders Scotstown struggled for scores in the early part of the year, but the return from injury of Kieran Hughes has transformed their attack, as he can win ball and finish, as well as creating for the likes of Paul Grant, Nicholas Corrigan and Orin Heaphey.
Latton’s championship run to date has followed a pattern, with all three games producing narrow wins in low-scoring games. They have scored 1-31 (an average of 11.33 points per game) and conceded 1-25 or an average of 9.33 points per game. Scotstown’s games have been more open and they have hit 5-34, which is an average of 16.33 points per game, while conceding 2-30, which works out at 12 points per game.
Scotstown are well ahead of Latton in the SFC roll of honour. They have appeared in 23 county finals, including five replays, winning 14 and losing just four, while Latton have won and three and lost three. Recent history favours the O’Rahillys, however, as they have won two titles and been in five finals since Scotstown last won the Mick Duffy Cup in 1993 and the Blues’ only final appearance since then resulted in a one-sided defeat to Magheracloone in 2004.
Both teams have shown they know how to win close games and another tense finish is in prospect, with a first draw of this year’s SFC (and a second stalemate in this fixture in two years) a real possibility.
Scotstown’s semi-final win showed a growing maturity and belief and they have the players to compete for years to come, but most of their players have yet to experience a senior championship final, in contrast to a Latton team who have been there, done that. Latton are targeting their third Mick Duffy Cup since 2005 and their greater big-match experience could be what sees them over the line.
The winners of this game will play either Glenswilly of Donegal or Cavan Gaels in the first round of the Ulster Club SFC in three weeks’ time.
Latton SFC scorers 2011: Shane Coyle 0-10 (5f); Hugh McElroy 0-9 (2f); Owen Duffy 0-7; Kevin Hughes 1-0; Bernard O’Brien (f), Niall Traynor, Owen Coyle, Owen Lennon, Dermot O’Brien 0-1 each.
Scotstown SFC scorers 2011: Kieran Hughes 4-8 (0-1f); Paul Grant 0-7; Darren Hughes 1-3 (1-0 pen, 0-3 ‘45s); Shane Carey 0-5 (2f); Nicholas Corrigan 0-3; James Turley, Stephen Sherry 0-2 each; Brian McGinnity, Emmet Caulfield (f), Francis Caulfield, David McCague 0-1 each.
Maguire Transport Minor Football Championship Division One Final
Clontibret v Truagh, Sunday, 1.45, Inniskeen
Clontibret will attempt to win back-to-back Maguire Transport Minor Football Championship Division One titles when they take on Truagh in today’s curtain-raiser.
Clontibret beat Latton in last year’s final to win the competition for the eighth time (the ninth including the 2005 success with Cremartin as St. Coleman’s) and they have already won silverware this year via the Minor Football League Division One, where they eased to victory over Carrickmacross in the decider. Meanwhile, Truagh are aiming for their first ever success in this competition after making history by winning back-to-back MFL Division One titles in 2009 and 2010. Truagh ended Clontibret’s double bid in the league final last year and they will be determined to repeat that trick today.
Both teams have been well tested in their runs to the final. Clontibret edged past Ballybay/Drumhowan amalgamation St. Patrick’s by the narrowest of margins in the first round, thanks to a last-gasp point from Conor Lavelle, before getting the better of Scotstown by two points in the semi-finals. Meanwhile, Truagh have won both of their games so far by a single point, knocking out Carrickmacross and a fancied Castleblayney team. Clontibret had a four-point win at home in the teams’ first MFL meeting of the year, but Truagh eased past an already-qualified O’Neills side in the final round.
Clontibret can call on four county minors in Conor Boyle, Conor Lavelle, Brian Greenan and Liam Savage, as well as Shane Hughes, Aodh Curran and Carl Foentjies. Clontibret’s full-forward line could be the winning of the game for them, as ‘twin towers’ Lavelle and Hughes have hit 3-9 between them in two championship games. Truagh are not short on quality, with players of the ability of Pádraig and Christopher McKenna, Adam Treanor and Christopher Curran among their ranks. Those four players are likely to form the spine of the Truagh team, with Curran at centre-back, Pádraig and Christopher McKenna at midfield and centre-forward respectively and Treanor on the edge of the square.
This has the makings of a cracker, but Clontibret are more used to the big occasion and that should help them retain the Fergal O’Hanlon Cup.
AIB Ulster Club Intermediate Hurling Championship Semi-Final
Castleblayney v Lisbellaw, Sunday, 3.30, Clones
Castleblayney will attempt to become the first Monaghan club to reach the Ulster IHC final when they take on Lisbellaw in Sunday’s semi-final.
After losing out to Inniskeen, who went on to win the Ulster JHC, in last year’s county final, Blayney won the Monaghan SHC title for the 11th time in 12 years. 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, where they made a good start by beating Kilclief from Down last Sunday. 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. Blayney have scored an impressive 4-60 in their three championship games this year while conceding 5-21, so their average for and against is 24 points to 12. Lisbellaw’s dominance of Fermanagh hurling has been even more pronounced than that of Blayney in Monaghan. The St. Patrick’s club have won 18 of the last 19 titles, with this year’s seven-point win over Lisnaskea making it six-in-a-row. They got a bye through the first round in Ulster.
Blayney have an ace in their pack in the form of free-taker Mickey McHugh, who has averaged 13 points in his three 2011 championship games so far. He will be supported up front by the likes of Barry Reilly, Fergal Rafter and Brian McGuigan, while Gary Boyd, Peter and Mark Treanor and Paul Murphy are other key players for Blayney. Lisbellaw also have a huge number of county players, including Ryan Bogue, Seán Corrigan, Declan McGarry, Daniel Teague and Rory Porteous. Both of these teams have enjoyed Ulster junior glory in the past and they will be determined to get a crack at the intermediate title.
Castleblayney SHC scorers 2011: Mickey McHugh 1-36 (0-25f, 0-6 ‘65s); Barry Reilly 2-5; Fergal Rafter 0-9; Hugh Byrne 1-2; Gary Boyd 0-4; Brian McGuigan, David Connolly, Jerry Brady, Stephen Forde 0-1 each.
Drumlin Group of Credit Unions Senior Football League
Magheracloone v Clontibret, Saturday, 4.30, Magheracloone
All the attention is on the county finals on Sunday, but before that there is a semi-final in the SFL down for decision on Saturday, when Magheracloone and Clontibret renew their rivalry.
Having lost in the cruellest of ways in a replay of last year’s SFC Final against Clontibret, Magheracloone have beaten the county champions three times this year, including the quarter-finals of the championship. Magheracloone went on to suffer another heartbreaking one-point defeat to Scotstown in the semi-finals, but they have recovered to finish top of the league on 28 points, three places and four points ahead of Clontibret.
Magheracloone have been forced to do without Tommy Freeman and Gavin and Francie Doogan for a large part of the year, but the former two are now back to boost the likes of Damien Freeman, James and Pete Ward and Paudie Finnegan. Clontibret will need Conor McManus, Vincent Corey, John Paul and Dessie Mone and Colum Greenan on top form if they are to do what no team has done since Scotstown in June – beat Magheracloone on their home turf.
GRM Minor Football League Division Three Final
Clones v Donaghmoyne, Saturday, 1.30, Cremartin
Donaghmoyne will be aiming to bounce back from last Sunday’s disappointment when they take on Clones in the rescheduled Minor Football League Division Three Final on Saturday.
Donaghmoyne suffered their first defeat in nine games against Cremartin in the Minor Football Championship Division Three decider last weekend, but they have the ability to return to winning ways here. Clones finished top of the Division Three group, a point ahead of Donaghmoyne, who they defeated back in May, but the Fontenoys look to have hit form at the right time. Donaghmoyne had two big wins over Clones in their last two meetings – one in the league and the other on their way to championship success – so they will be confident of making it a hat-trick this time. Clones edged past Corduff in the league semi-finals, while Donaghmoyne had seven points to spare against Cremartin.
Donaghmoyne, who include some players who were also involved in their run to the Under-16 Division Two Championship final, will be looking for big performances from Fergal Keenan, Niall Garland and Conor and Joe Finnegan. Clones depend hugely on David Freeman, who starred for their seniors in their run to the JFC Final, as well as Under-16 star Jake Rehill.
The penultimate round of the Monaghan Electrical Intermediate Football League takes place this Saturday. The top four teams are all up against each other, as Carrickmacross host Corduff in a repeat of last Sunday’s IFC Final while Currin take on Tyholland. Seán McDermotts and Rockcorry go head-to-head with both teams needing a win to stay in touch with the top four, while Donaghmoyne have home advantage against Drumhowan. The game between Aughnamullen and Éire Óg has been postponed.
Also this weekend, Doohamlet host Ballybay in a Platinum Tanks Reserve Football League Division Two semi-final, while there are finals in Divisions Two and Three of the Gerry’s Prepared Veg. Under-14 Football Leagues in Blackhill on Saturday. Meanwhile, Emyvale hosts the Under-16 Football Championship Division Four Final between Blackhill and Clones on Thursday night.