Another big weekend of club action awaits, with the SFC Final taking centre-stage on Sunday and the JFC Final Replay down for decision on Saturday evening. Minor Football and Hurling Championship titles are also up for grabs over the weekend, while Saturday’s league action includes a JFL semi-final.
Gormley uPVC Senior Football Championship Final
Clontibret v Scotstown, Sunday, 3.30, Clones * Live on TG4
Two of the traditional big hitters of Monaghan football go head-to-head in Sunday’s Gormley uPVC Senior Football Championship Final at St. Tiernach’s Park.
Clontibret have gone through the front door, defeating Clontibret and Scotstown to reach the semi-finals, where they needed a replay to edge past Monaghan Harps. Having beaten Magheracloone in the first round, Scotstown recovered from losing to Clontibret to see off Latton and Ballybay. Clontibret have won two of the three meetings between these teams this year. Scotstown won narrowly in the first game of the SFL at the end of March, but Clontibret eased to victory against an understrength visiting team in June and they went on to win their SFC Round 2A clash.
The teams have similar totals for and against in their four championship matches to date. Clontibret have scored 5-48 or 15.75 points per game and conceded 3-42, which is an average of 12.75 points. Scotstown have scored 4-47 (14.75 points per game) and leaked 4-34 or 11.5 points on average.
Scotstown have led the way in the league all year and they are already almost through to the final. Until last week’s loss to Castleblayney, when they had at least one eye on today’s game, Clontibret were the only team to beat them this year. Clontibret have had a mixed league campaign, leaving them in fifth place.
Clontibret and Scotstown haven’t met in a county final since the Blues’ last win in 1993. Scotstown didn’t reach the decider again until their 2004 loss to Magheracloone, while they were back on the big stage two years ago, when they were pipped at the post by Latton. Clontibret, on the other hand, have been regulars at this stage and including three replays, today is their 14th SFC Final appearance since 1993. They have won seven titles in that timeframe to take their total to 15 and overtake Scotstown in second place on the roll of honour. The O’Neills were also here last year, of course, when they lost to Ballybay.
Clontibret have one of the best forwards in the country right now in Ulster All-Star and All-Star nominee Conor McManus. Despite having to manage his preparations around a hip injury, McManus is again the runaway top scorer in the SFC with 3-24 and his importance to Clontibret is underlined by the fact that he has accounted for over 52% of their championship scores (up from 45% going into last year’s final). His tally included 1-8 in a virtuoso performance against today’s opponents in their last meeting.
Vincent Corey’s strong running has been another key asset for Clontibret, who will need the experienced county man to help McManus on the scoreboard, while half-backs Paul McGuigan and Martin Corey are both capable of getting on the scoresheet and Anthony Rooney has turned the clock back with some fine form at midfield. Brian Greenan, a county minor last year, has stepped up to senior level, as has Conor Lavelle, who came on to score a crucial goal last Friday night, with former Donegal Under-21 Michael McEniff from Bundoran another new addition to the team. Dominic Corrigan and co. will hope to have Colum Greenan available today after injury ruled him out of the replay against the Harps, as he can feature at midfield or full-back.
Scotstown have three Ulster All-Stars of their own in the Hughes brothers, Darren and Kieran, along with goalkeeper and long-range free-taker Rory Beggan. Mattie McGleenan’s side look to have a bit more balance to their attack, with Shane Carey emerging as the main marksman, particularly in the semi-final, where he scored 2-4, while pacy county minor Conor McCarthy showed well in his first SFC start against Ballybay. Kieran Hughes started the championship at full-forward, but has featured in a number of positions and will most likely line out in the half-forward line today. A mostly youthful attack will also be bolstered by the experience of Nicholas Corrigan and Brian McGinnity – the latter most likely coming off the bench. Scotstown are particularly powerful around the middle third, where they can call on the likes of Darren Hughes, Francis Caulfield, James Turley and Peter O’Hara.
Clontibret SFC scorers 2013: Conor McManus 3-24 (1-0 pen, 0-14f); Vincent Corey 1-4; Michael McEniff 0-5; Martin Corey 0-4; Conor Lavelle 1-0; Noel Morgan 0-3 (1f); Anthony Rooney 0-2; Brian Greenan, Paul McGuigan, David Savage, Ryan McGuigan, Colum Greenan, Fergal Mone 0-1 each.
Scotstown SFC scorers 2013: Shane Carey 2-14 (0-10f); Kieran Hughes 1-7 (0-3f); Rory Beggan 0-8 (5f, 3 ’45s); Nicholas Corrigan 0-4 (1f); Conor McCarthy 1-1; James Turley, Orin Heaphey 0-3 each; Paul Grant, Dónal Morgan 0-2 each; Darren Hughes, Brian McGinnity, Damien McArdle 0-1 each.
Universal Graphics Junior Football Championship Final Replay
Blackhill v Emyvale, Saturday, 7.00, Inniskeen
Blackhill and Emyvale once again contest the JFC Final when they meet in Saturday’s replay at Páirc Grattan.
The sides couldn’t be separated last Sunday in a match that was marred by a number of stoppages for injuries. Both teams had reason to be grateful for getting a second chance and both will seek to up their game for the replay.
Emyvale saw off Blackhill in their championship opener (which didn’t come until July 28 after Feargal O’Hanlons gave them a walkover in the first round) and Declan Brennan’s side then finished strongly to see off Oram in the semi-finals. It has been a longer route to the final for Blackhill, who already had convincing wins over Killeevan and Oram under their belts by the time they met Emyvale for the first time. The Emeralds bounced back to beat Toome in Round 3B and make the last four, where they held off a strong comeback from Seán McDermotts in an exciting finish.
Both teams have an average score of over seven points more than their concession rate so far in the championship. Blackhill have scored 8-66 in their six games, giving them an average of 15 points per game, while they have conceded 4-52 or 10.67 points per game. Emyvale’s 4-36 in their three outings gives them an average of 16 points, with their 2-27 conceded working out at 11 points per game.
Both clubs have won the Junior Championship four times. Emyvale’s most recent victory came in 2009, when they went on to win the Ulster title, while Blackhill are aiming to bridge a 61-year gap since their 1952 success. It’s a second JFC Final in a row for Emyvale, who went in as favourites last year, only to lose by a point against Drumhowan, while Blackhill’s last previous appearance at this stage was a defeat against Cremartin in 2004.
Blackhill have made great strides in recent years, coming from a low base to become leading contenders in junior football, backboned by young players who won an Under-21 Division Three title at a canter this year and an Under-21 Division One last year along with Oram as Emerald Sarsfields. Among the players to have come through from those teams are Ryan, Dónal, Ciarán and Anthony Courtney, Philip Donnelly and Michael Geehan, while Dermot Daly and Hugh Byrne graduated from the Division Three-winning crop of 2011. Colin Woods and Daly are the main score-getters from frees and from play, while Philip Donnelly’s pace is another key asset for Blackhill, who have also been boosted by the return of target man Darren Woods, who was restricted to a substitute’s role last week.
Emyvale have been contenders for junior honours since their relegation in 2010, but as well as last year’s final, they have also lost three semi-finals between league and championship. They had four county minors this year in Ryan McAnespie, David McAlister, Mervyn Brown and Daithí Colton, who have all played their part in getting their team here, particularly the first two, who are Emyvale’s top scorers in the championship to date. Brown is almost certain to miss out after being stretchered in the drawn game. Daniel McMahon is at the heart of much of his side’s attacking play, while James Bellew is the main man at midfield and Seán McMeel, the recently-returned John Flannery and Gregory Devlin should anchor the defence.
Blackhill JFC scorers 2013: Colin Woods 1-17 (0-6f); Dermot Daly 0-14 (10f); Hugh Byrne 1-6; Darren Woods 2-2; Paul Finnegan 1-3; Philip Donnelly 1-2; Ciarán Courtney 0-5 (1 ’45); Ryan Courtney 1-1; Stephen Courtney 0-3; Anthony Courtney 0-2; Michael Geehan (f), Ciarán Costello, Fergal Toal 0-1 each.
Emyvale JFC scorers 2013: David McAlister 1-7 (0-3f); Ryan McAnespie 1-5; Daniel McMahon 0-5 (1f); James Bellew 1-1; Karl McQuaid, Daithí Colton, Paul McCarron 0-2 each; Colm McKenna, Colin Hughes, Michael Flannery, Ciarán Connolly 0-1 each.
Blackhill JFC scorers 2013: Colin Woods 1-18 (0-6f); Dermot Daly 0-15 (10f); Philip Donnelly 2-5 (0-1 ’45); Hugh Byrne 1-6; Darren Woods 2-3; Paul Finnegan 1-3; Ciarán Courtney 0-5 (1 ’45); Ryan Courtney 1-1; Michael Geehan (1f), Stephen Courtney 0-3 each; Anthony Courtney 0-2; Ciarán Costello, Fergal Toal 0-1 each.
Emyvale JFC scorers 2013: David McAlister 2-8 (1-0 pen, 0-4f); Ryan McAnespie 1-5; Daniel McMahon 0-5 (1f); James Bellew 1-2; Daithí Colton 0-3; Michael Flannery, Martin McAree (1f), Garreth McQuaid, Karl McQuaid, Paul McCarron 0-2 each; Colm McKenna, Colin Hughes, Ciarán Connolly 0-1 each.
Maguire Transport Minor Football Championship Division One Final
Carrickmacross v Magheracloone, Sunday, 1.30, Clones
Sunday’s MFC Division One Final is a south-Monaghan derby between Carrickmacross and Magheracloone.
Carrickmacross have led the way all year in the Minor Football League, finishing top of the table, before beating Truagh in the semi-finals. The Emmets, who last won this competition in 2003, also beat Truagh in the last four of the championship, having got a bye through the quarter-final stage.
Magheracloone made a nightmare start to the year, losing their first five league games when they were short some players, but they turned their season around in some style to win seven games in a row between league and championship. They beat Scotstown and Monaghan Harps to reach a rare MFC Division One Final and they also qualified for the MFL semi-finals, only to lose to the Harps last Saturday. The Mitchells can call on many of the players who won the 2012 MFC Division Two, so they have experience of winning finals.
Carrickmacross are strong at midfield with Aaron Lynch and Niall Loughman and they will also be looking for big performances from Kevin O’Hanlon, Aaron Jones, Fergal Lonergan and Aaron Birdy. Magheracloone have a star corner-forward in Alan McCahey, while Paudie Kirk, Paul McArdle, Michael Metzger, Seán and Ciarán McClory and Donnchadh Kindlon are others with big roles to play.
Silver Hill Foods Minor Hurling Championship Final
Clontibret v Truagh Harps, Saturday, 2.00, Scotstown
Truagh Harps will attempt to put their MHL Final defeat behind them when they take on Clontibret in the championship decider on Saturday.
The Truagh and Monaghan Harps amalgamation lost to Cootehill in the league final, after finishing second in the table, one place above Clontibret, who they defeated along the way. Truagh Harps then beat Castleblayney to reach this stage, while Clontibret got a walkover from Carrickmacross.
Conor Boyle, Ciarán McQuaid, Cathal McAnespie, Noel and Matthew Flood and Tiarnán Bramley are key players for Truagh Harps, while Ryan O’Neill and Cillian Lavelle are central to the chances of Clontibret, who will be very competitive if dual players Aodh Curran and Michael O’Dowd are available.
Eurotech Junior Football League Semi-Final
Killanny v Oram, Saturday, 4.30, Killanny
The first place in the JFL Final is up for grabs in Killanny on Saturday.
Killanny are the form team in the junior league, as they won their last five group games and seven of their last eight to finish top of the table. The Geraldines had earlier had a disappointing championship, losing heavily to Seán McDermotts, before being pipped by Toome after a replay plus extra-time. Oram reached the JFC semi-finals, where they lost to Emyvale, but they also made a great finish to the league, taking 15 of the last 16 available points (including two walkovers) to finish fourth.
Killanny will need Peter Dooley, Daryl Traynor, Adam and Andrew Kieran, Cian Wakely and Steven McMahon on form, while Pauric and Seán Graham, Ryan McGuinness, Stephen McBride and Deaglán Crowe are crucial to Oram’s chances.
If the league meetings between these teams are a form guide, this game is tough to call, as Killanny won in Oram by two points, before the Sarsfields edged the reverse fixture by the smallest of margins. Home advantage could count in Killanny’s favour this time.
Ulster Club Intermediate Hurling Championship Semi-Final
Inniskeen v Cúchulainns (Armagh), Sunday, 1.45, Crossmaglen
Inniskeen take part in the Ulster Club IHC for the first time when they face Cúchulainns in Sunday’s semi-final.
Inniskeen won their second Monaghan SHC title when they pipped Castleblayney at the post in the final in August and they received a welcome boost ahead of this match when they completed the double with a comfortable win over Truagh in the league decider. City side Cúchulainns ended a 24-year wait for the Armagh SHC when they beat Keady and they made a positive start in Ulster with a double-scores win over Bredagh (Down) last Sunday.
Paul, Ronan and Dónal Meegan, Trevor Hilliard, Séamus Loftus and Pauric Dowdall will have to be on top form to give Inniskeen a chance in this one, given that Armagh’s last champions Middletown went on to reach the All-Ireland IHC Final. Cúchulainns can call on players of the calibre of Declan and Chris Coulter, Ciarán Clifford, Cormac Toner and Ruairí McGrattan.
A number of unplayed games in the Senior and Intermediate Leagues are down for decision on Saturday. In the Drumlin Group of Credit Unions Senior Football League, second-placed Monaghan Harps are at home to the team two places behind them in the standings, Latton, while third-placed Magheracloone are away to bottom-of-the-table Rockcorry. The other relegated team, Carrickmacross, travel to Ballybay, while there is also a local derby between Castleblayney and Doohamlet.
IFC finalists Truagh and Tyholland have home games in the Monaghan Electrical Intermediate Football League against Clones and Corduff respectively, while Donaghmoyne will attempt to bounce back from their championship semi-final defeat when they host already-relegated Drumhowan.
Meanwhile, Donaghmoyne will attempt to qualify for yet another Ulster Ladies Senior Football Championship Final when they host St. Paul’s, Belfast in the semi-finals on Saturday, while Emyvale B are up against Aghyaran (Tyrone) in the JFC semis.