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Paul McGirr Ulster U16 Club Champions Tournament Final

Friday 08.11.2019
Team Talk Mag
Championship Football


Burren v Clan Na Gael

This Sunday two clubs steeped in the history of Ulster club competition lock horns in the final of the Paul McGirr Ulster U16 Club Champions Tournament, three times Ulster senior champions Clan Na Gael and five times Ulster senior champions Burren.  Pedigree doesn’t come much better than this but it is a new generation of players from both clubs that will be seeking to create their own piece of history on Sunday afternoon in Gardrum Park Dromore in a game that will showcase some of the best underage talent in the province.

Clan Na Gael will have had the benefit of having come through what appears to be the tougher side of the draw. In the quarter final they had a tough encounter with experienced Fermanagh champions Newtownbutler and in last weekend’s semi final they overcame a half time deficit to produce a stunning second half against a very physical O’Donovan Rossa.  In fact it is their second half performances that have been most impressive for the Lurgan lads, displaying levels of stamina that no other team has matched to date.  It is Clan Na Gael’s half back line that has been the driving force in their Ulster campaign. Callum O’Neill, Brendan O’Hagan and in particular the tigerish Michael McConville have been imperious so far but they will have to be at the top of their game again this Sunday when faced with a free scoring Burren side.  Ronan O’Hagan has been dropping back into a sweeping position and his driving runs from the back have caught the eye while their midfield partnership of Odhran Reid and Cian McCrory work tirelessly for their side.  Odhran McGivern and Matthew Lennon have been their scorers in chief. The talented Lennon will be looking to add to his 4-09 tally so far in the tournament, his goals being key in his side’s victories.

Clan Na Gael manager Laurence McGuinness is confident of his team’s chances. ‘Sunday’s game can’t come quick enough for the lads. They are absolutely buzzing and full of confidence after Saturday’s game. We know we are going to be in for a very tough game against a strong and experienced Burren side, but our lads will be up for the challenge. We know we have to start strongly and keep the intensity up as we showed in the second half against Rossa. We have really embraced the Paul McGirr competition and to go out and play in the final of it is a great honour for our club. If we can iron out a few of the mistakes we made in the semi final and go out and really have a go, we won’t be too far away.”

John MacRory presenting Man Of Match to Michael McConville of Clan na Gael

Burren came into the tournament as favourites having won the 2017 All Ireland Feile title and their performances in the quarter and semi final have been outstanding, comfortably disposing of a strong Magherafelt O’Donovan Rossa and a hard hitting Ghaoth Dobhair with dazzling displays of attacking football. While their incredible tallies have been grabbing the headlines, one cannot underestimate the role that their defence has played.  Yet to concede a goal in the competition, their back six are very competent in the tackle and highly disciplined. Patrick McCarthy at full back has been of the stars of the tournament while Ryan Magill and Eoin McKernan have also stood out, centre back Magill is the man likely to be tasked with keeping tabs on Lennon and it’s a task that he will relish. Powerful midfielder Odhran Murdock has been totally dominant and the possible return to fitness of Conlin Bradley would really bolster Burren’s chances.  The Burren forward line are a mix of power, strength, speed and skill and every Clan Na Gael defender will be pushed to the limit to curb an attack that amassed an astonishing 10-35 in two games.  The towering Zach Murdock and James Duggan are the ideal target men while Eoin Loughran, Zach and Aaron Murdock all are well aware of where the posts are.  The man the Lurgan side will have to watch most though is centre forward Niall Toner, capable of scoring with either foot from a variety of angles, Toner appears almost impossible to mark and he is the man that could hold the key to bringing the title back to the Mournes.

Burren manager Neil Coulter is aware that his side will not have it all their own way on Sunday . “We are delighted and proud to be representing Burren in Sunday’s Paul McGirr U16 Ulster Final. With perseverance and determination we hope to emulate the success of our 2014 team. We have reached this year’s final by hard work, dedication and 100% commitment from a panel of 41 players who all played their part. Despite this we know that with Clan Na Gael (a club with Ulster Championship history) we are in for a tough game! Having watched them closely in Saturday’s other semi final, they will cause us plenty of problems. With their pace and strong defensive set-up they held Rossa scoreless through the entire second half which was very impressive – we will need to be on our guard! We would like to congratulate the Dromore club on running a fantastic competition for players and supporters alike.

The hurt of losing out in last year’s semi final may provide the key ingredient for Burren as they seek to regain a title they won in 2014. With thirteen of the team that started last year’s semi final defeat Burren have an experienced side that belies their tender years. They play as a team who are well aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses and are extremely accurate in front of the posts. However it can be argued that they have not really been put to the pins of their collars so far in this year’s tournament and Clan Na Gael will bring a level of tenacity they have not yet faced. It is how Burren react to this that will determine the destination of the Cuchulainn trophy. It promises to be a high scoring encounter. Clan Na Gael will fight to the bitter end but the extra scoring power may just give Burren the edge.

For those that cannot make the game, it will be streamed live via the ‘Spirit Of Paul McGirr’ Facebook page, coverage will start from 1:45. All proceeds from the game go to the Spirit Of Paul McGirr Foundation for their work with under privileged and less able bodied children in Lusaka, Zambia.

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