Down’s big two still on track

By Shaun Casey

WHEN the semi-final draws were made the reaction from the majority of people in the Mourne County and further afield was the exact same. The big two were kept apart.

That sets things up nicely for the dream final as Burren and Kilcoo seem destined to decide the destination of the Frank O’Hare Cup.

Things don’t always pan out as simple as that and Clonduff and Glenn will be determined to upset the odds and reach the decider themselves. After all, what’s championship football if it’s too predictable?

Glenn have certainly thrown the cat amongst the pigeons already as Stevie Clarke’s side, relegated to Division Three via the league, head to the last four of the Senior Championship for the first time in 37 years.

And they are where they deserve to be. They’ve been one of the bright sparks in the Down championship and have battled past anything that has stood in their way, namely Saval, Longstone and Mayobridge.

Glenn have the quality to back up their position and the talent to cause any team trouble on their day. Niall McParland, their spiritual leader, Shay Millar and net-minder John O’Hare were all part of Conor Laverty’s Down panel this season.

Burren will start the game as favourites and given the star names listed among their panel, they deserve to be. Former Armagh, Down and Kilcoo manager Jim McCorry has an array of talent at his disposal.

Ex-Down stars Kevin McKernan, Gerard McGovern and Donal O’Hare are key men while Ryan Magill, Paddy McCarthy, Odhrán Murdock, Danny Magill and Liam Kerr all featured for Down this year while they also have Armagh defender Paddy Burns to call upon.

Kilcoo are intent on retaining their title and so far, given their performances throughout the championship campaign, it would take a brave man to bet against them.

Karl Lacey has taken over and while they looked in trouble during the first half of their clash with league champions Carryduff, the Magpies dug it out to win convincingly.

The Johnston brothers, Jerome, Ryan and Sheelan, have all been moving well as has the likes of Ryan McEvoy and Miceal Rooney. Down manager Conor Laverty is still offering his services, although his impact has been limited to substitute appearances.

Kilcoo don’t often get it easy in Down and they need no reminding of the struggle face against Clonduff last season. While they eased through the first round tie, their quarter-final clash went right down to the wire and was eventually decided via penalties.

That will fill Adrian Cush’s side full of confidence as they know they can put it up to the Down kingpins. But they’ll also be well aware that if they are to cause an upset this weekend, they’ll need to be at full throttle.

Captain Darren O’Hagan will lead the charge at the back while Clonduff will look to the likes of Ross Carr, Arthur McConville and Stephen McConville to help carry the fight.

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