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TYRONE SENIOR HURLING CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL PREVIEW
Carrickmore Eire Og’s (holders) vs. Naomh Colum Cille
Sunday 11th September
At 3:00pm in Killyclogher
The Tyrone Senior Hurling Championship Final dominates the club programme this weekend, when reigning Benburb Cup holders Carrickmore Eire Og’s put their title on the line against championship final debutantes Naomh Colum Cille.
It promises to be a fitting conclusion to what has been a very interesting championship campaign with both teams recording comfortable semi final victories. Carrickmore defeating Strabane Shamrock’s 1-21 to 0-9 in Killyclogher, while Naomh Colum Cille accounted for near neighbours Dungannon 2-13 to 0-7 in Galbally.
In securing victory the Cille’s have ended the big two dominance of County finals. Indeed outside of Dungannon the last team from the east of the County to contest a Tyrone senior hurling final was back in the 70’s, when Moortown Setanta were going strong. And then you have to go back to 1995, when Killyclogher were crowned champions for the last club outside of the Carrickmore/Dungannon duopoly to win the coveted Benburb Cup.
The outcome of Sunday’s intriguing Final will depend on the performances of a number of key players on both teams. Carrickmore will look to the experienced figures of Sean Paul Begley, Damian Maguire and Martin Grogan to lead by example in defence. Indeed Maguire’s expected battle with Tyrone colleague and Naomh Colum Cille’s goal scoring machine Rory O’Neill could be one of the highlights of the afternoon.
The Eire Og’s midfield unit of John Kerr and Aidan Kelly is a nice blend of youth and experience and in Aidan Kelly, they possess a free taker of remarkable substance. The Naomh Colum Cille defence can ill afford to be in-disciplined, as Kelly will add further salt to the wounds having posted nine points against Strabane. In attack Carrickmore have a forward division capable of causing havoc if Naomh Colum Cille let the occasion get to them.
Justin Kelly is another leading marksman and alongside the likes of Gary Fox, Conor Grogan, Seamus McLoughney and Paul Hughes, the Eire Og’s possess a very formidable sextet of forwards that will all need careful attention from the Naomh Colum Cille rearguard.
NCC may be making their first ever Tyrone senior hurling championship final, but in their 25th anniversary year will they ever have a better incentive to land the blue ribbon of Tyrone hurling – The Benburb Cup?
A comfortable semi final victory that was built on work rate and energy suggests that if Naomh Colum Cille settle early then they have the potential to cause Carrickmore problems.
In defence Kevin Barry Corrigan and Eric Kirwan man the central positions with conviction, while Ryan Mor O’Neill, Ryan Duff O’Neill and Sean Kelly are all sure to make life very difficult for the Eire Og’s attack.
The Lough shore club have been building towards making the breakthrough at senior level. After all they have tasted success at Junior level in recent years and, in 2010 they conquered Ulster on their way to the All-Ireland Junior Club Hurling Final. Unfortunately their quest to land a National title ended in disappointing fashion as they lost out to Blackrock from Limerick.
Joe O’Neill and John Connolly’s midfield battle with John Kerr and Aidan Kelly could well be the key to winning this game. The Cille’s midfield pairing contributed three points in their semi final success over Dungannon.
Up front Naomh Colum Cille have an abundance of scoring power with target man Rory O’Neill leading their challenge in fine style. He scored both goals in the semi final win over Eoghain Ruadh, while Seamus O’Hagan chipped in with seven points. Aidan Taggart, Shea McKiver and Niall O’Neill all players with senior Inter County experience and, who are sure to lead the challengers title challenge.
Recent meetings suggest that it will be another very close encounter and if this is the case then Naomh Colum Cille’s defence could well be the key to unlocking the mystery by 4:10 pm or so on Sunday afternoon. The Carrickmore attack have the potential to run riot and, if the Cille’s can limit their effectiveness and restrict the opportunities afforded to Aidan Kelly from frees, they stand a chance. Carrickmore though will be starting as deserving favourites given their impressive run to the Ulster Final last term.