A fantastic weekend of club football has been lined up over the next three days which will culminate in a real humdinger of a double header in Loughmacrory on Sunday evening.
It all gets underway in Killyclogher tonight (Friday) when last year’s beaten junior finalists Brockagh take on Dregish. Both sides have been going reasonably well recently in the league but the championship is a different ball game altogether. Brockagh will start as favourites and rightly so considering the quality they have and their recent championship history. The Emmetts know that if they are to get promotion this year then the championship is their best, and possibly only, route. They have lost too much ground in the league but are well capable of beating any team in the division in a one off game.
The second game of the night is the Intermediate Championship replay between Newtownstewart and Eskra. These two teams served up a great game in Fintona last time out and the draw was a fair result. Both teams will feel they are capable of advancing to the quarter finals and have players with the necessary quality to make the difference. Peter Hughes and Conor Mc Girr were in superb form in the drawn game and Hughes in particular gave an exhibition of dead ball kicking. Eskra have Adrian Scullion back in good form and that will give them a huge boost.
Newtown showed tremendous character that night in Fintona as they fought back from four or five down to force a draw. The St. Eugene’s finished the stronger side last time out and with Kevin Gallagher and Declan Mc Connell in great form showed they are a match for any side on their day. That said however I still fancy Eskra with their greater experience to have a bit more in reserve and to come out on top in this one.
Tomorrow (Saturday) in Pomeroy has another Junior/Intermediate double bill with Glenelly taking on Derrytresk in the opening game. Sean Mc Connell’s side have the advantage of having already played in the championship when they defeated Carrickmore in the preliminary round. At times in that game they played some excellent football and led their opponents a merry dance. However they were reduced to fourteen men when Joe Mc Cullagh was dismissed early in the second half and that allowed Carrickmore back into the game. Fortunately for them Conal Mc Cullagh and Cathal Nicholas showed great composure to help see their team home. They will be facing a Derrytresk side short on confidence but determined to make a real fist of this one but it would come as a huge surprise if the North Tyrone side came up short.
In the second game Glenelly’s near neighbours Clan na Gael face Killeeshil. Most neutrals travelling to watch this one will be hoping to see county man Stevie O’Neill fully recovered from the injury that forced him to leave the field in the Tyrone versus Down game. His presence and scoring threat would be a huge boost for Paddy Ball’s team and would cause serious worry for the Killeeshil defence. Brian Dooher and Kevin Hughes will probably end up facing each other in and around the middle of the field and that promises to be quite a battle. If the county men can play a full sixty minutes for the Clans they are good enough to make it through to the quarters but I reckon Killeeshil are better balanced over all and will win this one.
Sunday has the potential to serve up a feast of football for all followers of good old fashioned club championship fare.
The parish of Termonmaguirc will host all four games as Ardboe and Aghyaran set the ball rolling in the opening game of the day in Carrickmore. Both sides have faced each other regularly over the last few years and know each other inside out. Last year’s beaten finalists Ardboe will be hoping to go one better than 2009 but know that this fixture has the potential to be a real banana skin. Martin Penrose is playing the best football of his life but he is going to need a few other Aghyaran men to step up to the plate especially against a side with the quality that Ardboe have.
The Mc Guigan brothers, Kyle Coney and John Mc Conville are outstanding players who would walk on to any team in the country. This is a side with huge talent and potential. They are one of the favourites to lift the county title and will be fancied to win this game. I can’t see anything other than a win for the O’Donovan Rossas although the final result could be closer than many people think.
The game that follows will see great friends Chris Lawn and Peter Canavan pit their wits against each other as managers for the first time in the championship. Both Errigal and Cookstown are blessed with some of the most exciting forwards in the county and this game promises to be quite a battle. In the past Errigal would almost certainly have been shoo ins in a match like this but under Chris Lawn’s guidance the Fr. Rocks have added a bit of steely determination to their game. This determination will be well tested by an Errigal side that is rapidly developing into one of the best teams in the county. They are riding high in the league and with Enda Mc Ginley back from injury and Peter Harte playing top class football they will be difficult to contain. Cookstown are not lacking in terms of quality themselves and players like Martin Murray and Conor Mullen add guile and physicality to the craft and ingenuity of Owen Mulligan and Raymond Mulgrew. When all is said and done however I expect Errigal to come through and progress to the quarter finals.
A short hop from Pairc Colmcille across the parish and Loughmacrory is the venue for the final two games of the day. And what a pair of games on offer as a highly fancied Omagh side face Moy in the first match and Carmen take on Killyclogher in the second game.
Paddy Crozier’s side have been quietly making progress and climbing the league table in spite of being short many key players . Last day out they defeated Carrickmore in Carrickmore and that was certainly a statement of intent. Omagh are blessed with talent throughout their ranks with players like the McMahons, the Gallaghers and their county minors Conan Grugan and Ronan O’Neill. Last year Omagh came up just short against Ardboe and they will be hoping the lessons of that day will help focus their minds as they prepare for another assault on the championship.
Moy also enjoyed a league victory over Carrickmore earlier in the season and are well capable of beating anybody on their day but they truly need to be playing at the top of their game with all their big stars pulling together. Sean Cavanagh could win a game like this on his own if he is given time and space on the ball and I am looking forward to seeing how Omagh deal with him and his brother Colm and who they delegate to pick them up. Might it be a case of the Mc Mahons versus the Cavanaghs? Whatever way it goes both these sides will enjoy the wide open spaces of Loughmacrory pitch and in spite of Omagh’s poor record on this field I will predict that St. Endas will come through in this one.
There should be a huge crowd out to see these games on Sunday and many of them will be going along to watch championship thoroughbreds Carrickmore as they take on Killyclogher in the last match of the weekend. Once again several more county players will be on view and Carmen will be hoping that Colm Mc Gurk is fit to return following his long lay off with injury. Colm was their best player last year and has been sorely missed from their defence during their campaign so far. If Carrickmore are to have any serious aspirations about winning the championship they will need the county man back fully fit and playing well.
However they are able to welcome Conor Gormley back and now that he has had a few weeks of good training behind him he is starting to look like the Conor Gormley of old. Kevin Mc Nally, Barry Daly and Mark Donnelly are the key forwards for Carrickmore and if they are given time and space by the Killyclogher defence there will be only one winner. Killyclogher have been playing reasonably well without running up big scores but they come into this game without two key men in Brian and Damien Meenan and the loss of such talented players will certainly be a blow to their chances of making the quarter finals.
Enda Kilpatrick has been doing a fine job with Killyclogher but he knows that his side need big games from their county men and forwards Leo Meenan and Ciaran Carlin while his youthful midfield pairing will face a tough examination of their credentials. Historically championship matches between these sides have been hard fought and very close and I see no reason to expect anything different on Sunday. It could go either way but I have a feeling this one could take a replay to decide who goes through to the next round.
Of course with all the various sporting activities that are on the box this weekend some people may be tempted to get their sporting fix from the TV. Well all I will say is if that is their choice they could well miss a real treat in terms of club football in Tyrone as this promises to be a feast of football for all followers of GAA in the county.