Previews (November 18-20)
AIB Ulster Club Senior Football Championship Semi-Final
Latton v Burren, Sunday, 2.30, Armagh
Latton will bid to become the first Monaghan club in 17 years to qualify for the Ulster SFC Final when they take on Down champions Burren at the Morgan Athletic Grounds in Armagh on Sunday. No Monaghan team has made it past this stage since Clontibret lost to Bellaghy back in 1994, but Latton are determined to go one step further and set up a meeting with All-Ireland champions Crossmaglen.
Both of these teams had to wait until last Sunday to get their provincial campaigns off the ground (due to Michael Murphy of Latton’s opponents Glenswilly and Burren’s own Kevin McKernan being in Australia with the Irish International Rules team), but neither showed any rust in qualifying for this Sunday’s semi-final. Both sides also received boosts on Thursday night when the Ulster Council overturned the suspensions of Latton’s Edmund Lennon and Burren captain James McGovern, who were both sent off last Sunday. Latton are also set to welcome Bernard and Dermot O’Brien back after they missed the Glenswilly game through holidays and suspension respectively.
Latton won the Monaghan county championship for the third time since 2005, thanks to wins over Doohamlet, Clontibret, Ballybay and Scotstown and they made a bit of history last Sunday by going to Ballybofey and edging past Donegal side Glenswilly for their first Ulster championship victory. The O’Rahillys, who have won two games by a point and another two by two points, have scored 2-47 in their five championship matches – an average of 10.6 points per game – and conceded 1-42 (nine points per game).
Burren retained the Down SFC title with relative ease this year, as they saw off Longstone, Mayobridge, Rostrevor and Clonduff by an average of seven points. They kept up that average winning margin last Sunday with another seven-point win over Roslea of Fermanagh in their Ulster opener. Burren have scored 7-68 in five games (17.8 points per game) while conceding 7-33 (10.8 points on average).
Latton’s main strength is their defence, with an impressively low average concession rate, particularly when it comes to leaking goals, as Seán Farmer has been beaten just eleven times in 25 games. That defensive solidity has been led by Kieran Duffy, Owen Coyle, Stephen Fitzpatrick and Edmund Lennon (although the latter is suspended). Latton’s midfield is a very strong and long-established pairing of Owen Lennon – who gave one of his best displays in some time last Sunday – and team captain Aidan Farmer, while Hugh McElroy, Shane Coyle and Owen Duffy are the main men up front, particularly if centre-forward Bernard O’Brien is again absent.
Burren’s star man is Kevin McKernan, who impressed down under just a couple of weeks ago, but he has plenty of talented team-mates all around the field. McKernan has good support from Gerard and Daniel McCartan in defence, while Anton McArdle is the main man at midfield and Donal O’Hare, Seán Murdoch and Conal McGovern have plenty to offer up front and Paudie Poland came off the bench to score 1-1 against Roslea.
Latton have enjoyed a fine year and they overcame the odds last Sunday, but Burren represent another step-up. Latton will relish being written off for the second successive week, but Burren should just about justify their favourites tag. The game is preceded by the Ulster JHC Final Replay between Burt and Creggan.
Latton SFC scorers 2011: Hugh McElroy 1-13 (1-0 pen, 0-4f); Shane Coyle 0-15 (7f); Owen Duffy 0-9; Kevin Hughes 1-0; Owen Lennon 0-3; Bernard O’Brien 0-2 (1f); Niall Traynor, Owen Coyle, Aidan Farmer, Stephen Fitzpatrick, Dermot O’Brien 0-1 each.
Gerry’s Takeaway, Ballybay Junior Football League Final
Clones v Cremartin, Sunday, 1.00, Emyvale *Note early throw-in
Cremartin are preparing for an Ulster final, but before that they have the chance to complete a Monaghan junior double when they take on Clones in Sunday’s JFL Final, a repeat of the JFC decider. Cremartin beat Clones twice on their way to winning the county championship and they have gone on to see off Shercock and Burt to reach the Ulster Club JFC Final.
These teams finished third and fourth in the league, but both won away from home in the semi-finals. Third-placed Cremartin edged past Emyvale, while Clones held Toome scoreless in the second half of their two-point win. Cremartin have beaten Clones three times out of four this year, including those two championship clashes, but there was just two points separating them in the final league standings and they had almost identical score-differences (Cremartin +58 and Clones +57), so there isn’t a huge amount between the teams.
Cremartin have become less reliant on Darren Bishop for scores, with Ronan Burke, Kevin Brennan and Barry Carragher chipping in regularly, while Gary Boyd, Niall Flanagan and Christopher Farrell give them plenty of options around the middle of the field and Declan Farrell, Patrick and Jonathan McGuigan and Fergal Mulligan have been in good form in defence. Clones have forwards of the calibre of Adrian Alford and Darren and David Freeman, while Darragh Holland, Micheál Treanor and Fintan Kelly should also play key roles.
Clones will be up for this match as it is their last shot at promotion, while Cremartin have long ago secured their place in next year’s intermediate ranks, but the St. Tiarnach’s have gone five weeks without a competitive fixture. Meanwhile, Cremartin have been playing week in, week out and getting stronger as the season goes on and that could be the advantage that sees them win a coveted double. This is the last domestic club fixture in Monaghan this year and it is a crucial one for next year’s standings, as if Cremartin win, Toome will be promoted, while victory for Clones would move them up.
BT Ulster Colleges Rannafast Cup Final
St. Macartan’s College, Monaghan v St. Patrick’s, Maghera, Friday, 5.30, Emyvale
St. Macartan’s College, Monaghan will attempt to make history when they contest the Rannafast Cup for the first time since 1997 against holders St. Pat’s, Maghera under lights in Emyvale on Friday evening – note change of time.
These teams met back in April in the Brock Cup Final – when Maghera ran out winners by six points – and they have advanced to another decider at a higher grade just seven months later. Maghera topped Section B ahead of fellow St. Pat’s schools from Dungannon and Cavan, as well as St. Eunan’s, Letterkenny, while the Sem emerged from Section A, which also featured Omagh CBS, St. Mary’s, Magherafelt, St. Pat’s, Armagh and newcomers Coláistí Inis Eoghain from Donegal. Maghera defeated Omagh in the quarter-finals before stepping up a gear with an impressive semi-final win over Abbey CBS, Newry. The Sem saw off St. Michael’s, Enniskillen in the last eight and they got the better of the other Newry side, St. Colman’s, in their semi-final which was played in dreadful conditions last Friday.
Aodh Curran and Kevin Loughran are an effective midfield duo for the Sem, while Conor McCarthy, Tom Hayes, Michael O’Dowd and Christopher McAnenly can play big parts up front and Jack Turley, Thomas Lynch and Shane Treanor are the main men in defence. St. Pat’s, who can call on a number of players with MacRory Cup experience, will be looking for big performances from Cormac O’Doherty, Conor Convery, Ruairí McElwee, Oisín Hegarty, Paul Gunning and Peter Hagan.
This one is likely to go to the wire and the Sem’s proven ability to win tight games could stand to them, although Maghera will be regarded as favourites after their impressive performance last time out.
The Rannafast Final isn’t the only important game for Monaghan schools this weekend. St. Macartan’s also have a must-win MacRory Cup Section A match against St. Michael’s, Enniskillen on Saturday, while Our Lady’s, Castleblayney and Patrician High School, Carrickmacross are both in MacLarnon Cup action on Monday. Our Lady’s play Downpatrick and Patrician face Holy Cross, Strabane.