Sunday is a big day of Ulster club championship action, with both Scotstown and Emyvale facing Derry opposition in a Clones double-header and Truagh also having a home venue (Ballybay) against a Down opponent, while the JFL Final and SFL semi-final are also down for decision.
Ulster Club Senior Football Championship Quarter-Final
Scotstown v Ballinderry, Sunday, 2.30, Clones
Monaghan champions Scotstown are up against old hands and second favourites for the Ulster Club SFC title, Ballinderry. Scotstown are a club with Ulster pedigree, having won four of Monaghan’s six titles; the most recent in 1989. They are now back in the running after a 20-year absence. After beating Magheracloone, Scotstown lost to Clontibret (the only team to beat them so far this year), but wins over Latton and Ballybay earned them another crack at the O’Neills in the final, where an impressive performance from the Blues saw them cruise to victory.
Convincing wins over Newbridge and Glenullin got Ballinderry through the group stage of the Derry championship and they saw off Kilrea and Lavey to reach the final, where they defeated Ballinascreen for their third county title in a row and their seventh since 2001; the year they earned Ulster and All-Ireland glory. The Shamrocks would surely have more than two provincial titles to their name in most eras, but for the dominant presence of Crossmaglen standing in their way.
The teams have conceded similar amounts on average so far with Ballinderry’s 2-56 working out at 10.33 points per game, just slightly less than Scotstown’s 10.6 average. Scotstown have scored heavily with 7-63 or 16.8 points per game, but Ballinderry’s 12-84 gives them a huge average of 2-14.
Ballinderry have experience and ability in every area of the pitch, with former Derry players like Enda Muldoon, Kevin McGuckin and Conleith Gilligan being joined by younger stars such as Colin and Aaron Devlin, Michael McIver and Ryan Bell. Raymond Wilkinson is still out with the serious knee injury he suffered while playing for Derry in the NFL Division Two Final at the end of April.
Scotstown, who can compete with anyone around midfield, will be looking to county stars Darren and Kieran Hughes and Rory Beggan to lead the way, with the help of Dónal Morgan, James Turley, Francis Caulfield and in-form forwards Shane Carey and Conor McCarthy.
Ulster Club Intermediate Football Championship Quarter-Final
Truagh v Drumgath, Sunday, 2.30, Ballybay
Truagh begin their Ulster IFC campaign against Drumgath at Pearse Park.
The north-Monaghan men were shocked by Donaghmoyne in the IFC preliminary round, but five straight wins over Corduff, Drumhowan, Clones, Currin and Tyholland saw them lift the title and secure a quick return to senior football. Drumgath beat Ballymartin and Dundrum to secure their progression from the group stage of the Down IFC, with a last-round defeat against Newry Shamrocks making no difference. They edged past Carryduff in the quarter-finals, before overcoming two red cards to beat St. John’s and set up a final meeting with St. John Bosco, where they had five points to spare.
Truagh were the highest scoring team in any of the Monaghan championships this year with 11-81, giving them an average of 19 points per game, which compares favourably with Drumgath’s 9-71 – also from six games – which is an average of 15.33 points. Truagh have also leaked less at the back: 2-59 compared with 5-52, or 10.83 points per game versus 11.17.
Truagh have options up front in the likes of Adam Treanor (top scorer with 7-11, all but a point from play), Daniel and Christopher McKenna and Mark Counihan, with Paudie McKenna, Niall Coyle, Niall Feely and Barry Cuddy other important players. Packie Downey, Colm and Gareth Maginn, Mark Connolly and Colm McComish should be among the main men for Drumgath. Truagh have the winning habit, having lost just three of their 24 matches this year, which is likely to see them into an Ulster semi-final
Ulster Club Junior Football Championship Quarter-Final
Emyvale v Ardmore, Sunday, 12.45, Clones
The curtain-raiser at St. Tiernach’s Park sees Emyvale take on Ardmore in the Ulster JFC. Emyvale got a bye through the first round of the Monaghan championship and wins over Blackhill and Oram saw them through to a second consecutive final. They needed a Martin McAree point deep into added time to earn a draw against Blackhill, but they made no mistake in the replay, with two early goals by Daniel McMahon setting the tone.
McMahon, Ryan McAnespie, David McAlister and Daithí Colton are part of a potent Emyvale attack, which has hit 8-45 in their four championship games (17.25 points on average). James Bellew is the main man at midfield, with Seán McMeel, John Flannery and Gregory Devlin anchoring a defence which has conceded 3-36 (11.25 points per game) to date.
Ardmore struggled through the early stages of the Derry JFC, losing to Derrytrasna and needing to edge past Seán Dolans to stay in the hunt. They had another one-point win at the expense of Drum to set up a rematch with Derrytrasna in the final, which they won by two goals back in September. That was an upset by most accounts, with Ardmore’s experienced players like Brian, Peter and Al McLaughlin and Barry Gormley guiding them over the line. They will need those players on form again, along with young defender Anthony Hargan.
Ardmore have conceded just two points less than they have scored on their way to this point – 9-30 to 7-34 – and 2009 Ulster winners Emyvale should be too strong for them.
Eurotech Junior Football League Final
Oram v Seán McDermotts, Sunday, 2.00, Drumhowan
The two beaten JFC semi-finalists contest the JFL Final on Sunday.
Both teams won three championship matches on their way to the penultimate round, but Oram lost to eventual winners Emyvale, while Seán McDermotts were edged out by Blackhill. After securing third place in the league, the Seáns got some revenge on Blackhill in their league semi-final, while Oram turned over table-toppers Killanny. Both games between the sides so far were evenly-matched, with the Seáns winning one by two points and the other resulting in a draw.
The Seáns will need Paddy Kieran (if fit), Damien Larkin, Páraic McGuirk, Noel Rice and Mark Keogh on form, particularly as the Threemilehouse side are still without the injured James Treanor, as well as the suspended Eamon McQuillan and Jamie McElvaney. Pauric Graham, Ryan McGuinness, Stephen McBride, Aaron Molloy and Seán Graham should spearhead Oram’s challenge.
Drumlin Group of Credit Unions Senior Football League Semi-Final
Monaghan Harps v Magheracloone, Sunday, 2.00, Gavan Duffy Park
Monaghan Harps and Magheracloone battle it out on Sunday for the right to play Scotstown in the SFL Final.
Magheracloone are the league holders after they beat Ballybay in the final last year and they booked their semi-final place with a hard-earned draw in Latton last Sunday. The Harps, who lost to Clontibret after a replay in the SFC semi-finals after knocking the Mitchells out in the previous round, finished second in the table, only behind Scotstown. It’s honours-even so far from the three meetings of these teams this year, with one win and a draw each.
Tommy and Damien Freeman, Gavin Doogan, James Ward and Paudie Finnegan are key players for Magheracloone, while Neil McAdam, Shane Smyth, Dónal Hahessy and Gary White should be to the fore for the Harps.