Read the previews of action in Cavan, Derry and Fermanagh.
Cavan IFC Semi-final
Ballinagh v Ballyhaise
(Sunday, Kingspan Breffni, 5pm)
Ballinagh seem to be very much back in business.
Thomas Moore was part of the Ballinagh team that won their one and only Senior Championship title back in 2013, but relegation to the Intermediate ranks in 2018 suggested this was a team on the decline.
However, appearances can be deceiving, and a talented batch of younger players on the squad are gaining in experience and have been to the fore in their run to the semis.
They beat a fancied Belturbet side in the last day of the group stages, and they repeated the trick when they overcame the same opposition with plenty to spare in the quarter-finals.
Reflecting on those victories, Moore, who captains the team said, said: “The first game was a must-win for us and they were already through, they took their foot off the pedal in the second-half. But the second game went well for us, they missed a couple of chances and we blitzed them in the second period so it worked out nice for us.”
Talented young players coming through the ranks include Cormac Timony, Evan Finnegan, and Kyle Tyler, who made a massive impact when thrown into the action against Belturbet in the last-eight, while their more experienced men have been given a fresh lease of life in this most unusual of seasons.
“The younger lads are a year older and have 10 or 12 games under their belts, and for the older lads the lockdown helped a lot. It allowed lads to recharge, you’re not slogging through a full league and then going into the championship, it gave us a chance to get a couple of niggles sorted.”
Even though they field in the Intermediate Championship, Ballinagh still mix it with the big boys in Division One. Moore admits it’s still important for the team’s progression that they make it back to the senior championship, whether it’s this year or in the near future.
Moore said: “We got stuck in a rut of losing games in 2018 and it’s hard to get out of. We’d a lot of young lads coming out of minor level who hadn’t played a pile of senior football. They’re two years down the line and they’re coming to their milk now, they’re some of our best players at the minute.
“Playing Division One is a massive help for us at Intermediate level, but senior is where you want to be.
“If we get back to the senior championship soon we’d have a young enough squad that we’d have a good rattle at it, but it’s a matter of getting there first.”
This is Moore’s first year as captain, and while it’s an honour, it doesn’t entail too much extra work on his part. He says there are plenty of leaders on the team, including Niall McDermott, whose return to the panel this year has been a major factor in their impression championship run.
“It’s a massive help having Niall back, he’s flying and it’s brilliant for us. We’ve lots of leaders on the field, so you don’t have to do a whole pile, there’s loads of experience, so you don’t have to tell those boys too much.”
Castlerahan v Crosserlough
(Sunday, Kingspan Breffni, 2.30pm)
REIGNING champions Castlerahan may have lost Cian Mackey this season, but they’re on course for their sixth final appearance in as many years. Crosserlough are proving their consistency as well, reaching their third semi-final in a row, but they’ve yet to make the breakthrough where it counts. Castlerahan edged an epic tie against an always-competitive Lavey team, and a new player to watch out for is Cian McCabe. Their opponents shook off Gowna to make the semis, and both sides will fancy their chances of reaching the final.
Cavan Gaels v Kingscourt Stars
(Sunday, Kingspan Breffni, 7.30pm)
CAVAN Gaels are many people’s favourites for the championship, and it’s ominous for their opponents that they earned a convincing win over Ramor despite Seanie Johnston and Barry Fortune sitting on the sub’s bench. The Gaels can blow hot and cold but they’re in great form this year and new transfer Gearoid McKiernan was in great form against Ramor. Their opponents Kingscourt are usually there or thereabouts but will be concerned at how much of a struggle it was to beat Mullahoran in their quarter-final.
Verdict: Cavan Gaels
Butlersbridge v Baileboro Shamrocks
(Sunday, Kingspan Breffni, noon)
BAILIEBORO are riding the crest of a wave at the minute as they’ve qualified for their first Intermediate semi-final in eight years. Luke Gilsenan and Rhys Clarke are in excellent form up front, but they’ve been gelling well as a team. Butlersbridge, meanwhile, won all four of their group matches, and progressed to the semis after an epic battle with Killinkere after extra-time.
Mullahoran v Cootehil Celtic
Sunday, St Matthews Park, 4pm
IF the semi-finals are any indication, this could be a close run thing. Reigning champions Mullahoran edged a hard-fought battle against Pearse Og, while Cootehill pipped East Cavan on a scoreline of 3-8 to 2-9. Mullahoran are bidding for their fifth title in a row, and they beat Cootehill in two recent finals so they’re the natural favourites.
Magherafelt v Swatragh
(Saturday, Bellaghy, 2pm)
The County champions Magherafelt’s defence continues. Losing to Glen in round two has cast some doubt about their abilities, but their win over Lavey in the last round suggests that they are a team eager to prove a point. Swatragh beat Banagher by 0-13 to 2-3 in the knockout round. This one could be tight.
Ballinascreen v Ballinderry
(Saturday, Celtic Park, 5.30pm)
The only blot on Ballinascreen’s form so far is their loss to Swatragh, 0-15 to 0-7. But as that game was round three of the group stages a line could be run through it. They bounced back with a 1-12 to 0-9 result against Bellaghy. Their next test is against a Ballinderry team who needed a late burst to beat Newbridge. The Sean O’Leary’s really should have put that game to bed. Ballinascreen should prevail here.
Eoghan Rua Coleraine v the Loup
Sunday, Ballinascreen, 1pm)
The only team that has beat Eoghan Rua this year is Sleacht Néill. They defeated Claudy by 3-10 to 1-14 in the last round. Goals are very much the key to their success. They put three against Lavey in the first group game. The Loup have shipped six goals in four games. That could be their downfall this weekend.
Sleacht Néill v Glen
(Sunday, Celtic Park, 4.30pm)
This is the tie that many in Derry have been waiting on. Sleacht Néill have been in sparkling form this year, and have beaten Kilrea, Coleraine, Lavey and Foreglen. Their result against Eoghan Rua Coleraine is a marker, as that is a team that has always tested them. Last year, Glen knocked Sleacht Néill out of the championship. The Robert Emmett’s can get revenge for that, but also remove one of the big challengers for this year’s title. This is a fantastically exciting prospect of a match.
Verdict: Sleacht Néill
Greenlough v Lissan
(Saturday, The Loup, 3pm)
After an unremarkable opening to the championship, Lissan took the scalp of Glenullin with a 3-12 to 0-14 last time out. But they will have a stiffer task this weekend against a Greenlough side who have beaten Ballymaguigan, Slaughtmanus and Castledawson.
Steelstown v Drumsurn
(Saturday, Banagher, 3pm)
Steelstown are in fantastic form. After beating Glenullin, they conceded the points against Glack, and then edged Limavady by two points. Drumsurn also had points conceded, when they played Glack. However, a one point loss to Faughanvale was frustrating. But they bounced back with a big win over Doire Trasna, and followed that with a ten point win over Slaughtmanus. This should be tasty.
St Mary’s Castledawson v Glack
(Sunday, Foreglen, 1pm)
Castledawson won their first two games, against Slaughtmanus and Ballymaguigan, and scored eight goals across those matches. However, they were defeated by Greenlough. Glack conceded their first points, then lost to Glenullin by a point and beat Doire Trasna by the minimum. Castledawson are likely winners.
Faughanvale v Limavady Wolfhounds
(Sunday, Dungiven, 2pm)
Wins against Doire Trasna, Drumsurn and Lissan suggest that Faughanvale are in super form. Limavady lost to Steelstown and Glenullin before getting a result against Ballymaguigan, by eight points.
There are four games down for decision. Craigbane should beat Moneymore, while Desertmartin are expected to beat Drum who have lost all three games played. Group B has the most intriguing game in Dolans who are second against Doire Colmcille who are third. Ballerin, who have won two games already, should beat Ardmore in the other game.
IFC semi-final replay
Belcoo v Maguiresbridge
(Sunday, Kinawley, 2pm)
THESE two sides must do it all again after playing out an entertaining draw at the weekend. Both teams had chances to win it with Matthew McAloon and Caolan Duffy hitting late wides, but overall a draw was a fair result.
Belcoo’s Niall Carson barely put a foot wrong the whole match, and they’re a motivated bunch of players after losing last year’s Intermediate final. Maguiresbridge are showing that they have what it takes, however, beating St Pat’s Donagh in the last round despite being underdogs, and then coming close to edging Belcoo the first day out. A place against Enniskillen Gaels in the final awaits the winners, and the favourites usually get it right the second day out.
Newtownbutler v Derrylin
(Sunday, Shamrock Park, 3pm)
THIS semi-final is going ahead for the second time as their match at the weekend was abandoned after a serious injury to Newtownbutler’s Gaby Jones after an accidental collision in the last quarter.
Derrylin were five points up at the time, though Newtownbutler had been working their way back into it when the game was called up. If Newtownbutler are to get it right, they’ll really need to come to grips with Donal McAvinue and Fearghal McGovern who had both scored three points from play.