By Niall Gartland
STEELSTOWN ladies will be hoping to lay a few ghosts to rest in this Saturday’s Ulster Intermediate Championship semi-final against Castleblayney (Castleblayney, 2pm).
This time last year there was a major controversy surrounding their semi-final encounter against Denn-Castlerahan that unfortunately painted the provincial ladies scene in a bad light.
Their semi-final clash was scheduled for a mere 72 hours after their quarter-final win. What’s more, they were unable to field after a late venue change from a grass pitch to a 3G surface and the game was awarded by default to Denn-Castlerahan.
It was an unsatisfying outcome to put it mildly for a side that a year previous had narrowly lost the final to Fermanagh side Kinawley and one assumes it must be a considerable driving force for the team this time around.
They regained their Derry Senior Championship title (their fourth on-the-trot) with victory over Glen and earned an Ulster Intermediate quarter-final over Omagh, St Enda’s on a scoreline of 1-8 to 0-5. And with talented players in their ranks like captain Aoife McGough, Emma Doherty, Ciara McGurk, all of whom hold multiple county medals, they’ll really fancy their chances of booking their spot in the final.
Standing in their way is Castleblayney side who had a truly memorable 2022, making it all the way to the All-Ireland Junior Championship semi-final. Their campaign has had a bit of disruption with joint-manager Paddy McNally stepping aside in the wake of the Monaghan final, but they have a strong team with a few really notable players.
Their players worth keeping an eye on are team captain Jodie McQuillain, the team captain and their scoregetter-in-chief. Hazel Hughes is a pacey wing-back while Orlaith Maguire is a huge presence in the middle third.
They’ve made the step up to the Ulster Intermediate Championship and claimed a hugely impressive win over Granemore in the first-round (the final scoreline of 5-18 to 0-7 says it all) but it’s still hard to avoid coming to the conclusion that Steelstown will be a bridge too far.