With the number of under twenty one matches scheduled for this weekend you could be forgiven for thinking that this seems a strange time to play this particular set of games. Indeed it is even more peculiar when you consider that the league sections in this competition were played away back during the summer. The various winners and runners up in each section and grade were decided many months ago and it really is beyond belief that here we are five weeks away from the shortest day in the year and the grade one competition is still only at the quarter final stage. The finals in grades two and three are down for decision on Saturday and the game at Beragh between Augher and Rock is a repeat of a final of a few years ago at the same venue when The Saint Macartans held on to win in a very tight game. Rock will be keen to get revenge in this one but Augher may have just that little bit more in scoring threat which could make all the difference.
Aghyaran take on their North Tyrone rivals Owen Roes at Strabane in the grade three final. This is a game that will give the St. Davog’s a chance to get over the disappointment of last week’s relegation from senior football. They have been making a bit of progress in underage football of late and were one of the top teams in grade three minor this year. Owen Roes have had a disappointing season in Division Three and they will see Saturday’s game as an ideal opportunity to give the club a significant end of season boost. My hunch however is for Aghyaran to have a bit too much for the men from Leckpatrick and take the trophy back to Dolan Park.
Meanwhile three vital “league” fixtures take place this weekend which are sure to draw large crowds and raise the temperature of a cold November day. In Division One Errigal Ciaran are going for back to back league titles as they take on County Champions Coalisland. Errigal were very impressive in their semi final win over Omagh St. Enda’s with Peter Harte and Enda Mc Ginley outstanding. Both county men will need to be in top form if they are to deny the Fianna a league and championship double. Of course a lot will depend on how Damien O’Hagan’s side recover from the exertions of last week’s Ulster Club defeat. A narrow one point defeat in a game they could have won can leave psychological scars and how Coalisland perform in their final game of the season will tell us a lot about their mental resolve and their manager’s ability to motivate and challenge his team. I just have a feeling that Errigal want this one a bit more than The Fianna and hunger could ultimately decide the destiny of the league title.
No titles at stake in Castlederg or Cookstown but in some ways these games have even more riding on them. In the Division One/Two playoff Kildress are fighting for their senior survival while Moortown are hoping to go one better than they did last year and return to senior football. Tiffy and Cokey Quinn come into this game well aware of the prize that victory brings. Moortown were excellent last day out against Loughmacrory when they scored for fun in the second half. Kildress on the other hand had two real battles against Aghyaran and games like that can do a lot for a team’s resolve. A tough one to call but Kildress just might have enough in the tank for one final push which should see them retain their place in the top flight.
It might seem like a slightly less glamorous tie but the game at Castlederg between Strabane and Drumquin will be as competitive a game as we have seen all year. Strabane must be wondering what went wrong with a season that promised so much. They were not that far away from making the Intermediate final a few weeks ago but just could not repeat their championship form in the league where they suffered some gut wrenching defeats. Drumquin on the other hand have been very consistent all year in the league particularly in the latter stages. They won’t mind going into this game as underdogs and there is nothing The Wolfe Tones would enjoy more than winning promotion at the home of their great rivals Castlederg. However in games like these experience means so much and in spite of Drumquin’s recent good run I think it will be county chairman Ciaran Mc Laughlin who will be smiling come Sunday evening.