By Michael McMullan
ULSTER champions Dunloy face rematch of the 2021 county final decider when they take on Rossa on Saturday (5pm) in Hightown.
There has never been a five-in-a-row in the history of the competition and it was Rossa who took home the Volunteer Cup in 2004 when the Cuchullains were gunning for their fifth in succession.
Manager Gregory O’Kane already has a bit of freshness in the squad with the return of Eoin O’Neill, who bagged 3-4 in their opening win over Clooney Gaels.
‘Sammy’ opted out to go travelling last season and missed their run to the All-Ireland final.
Goals from Eoin Trainor and Dominic McEnhill shot Rossa to a 2-21 to 0-21 win over St John’s with Aodhan O’Brien registering half a dozen points.
They’ll need a stellar showing from county dual star at midfield to put the squeeze on a Dunloy team who’ve been the standard bearers in the county since their return to the top.
Also in Group One, the Johnnies will be keen to get their season back on track when they face Clooney Gaels on Saturday (Loughgiel, 7pm).
The shooting form of Down star Oisin MacManus – who notched 0-13 from placed balls – wasn’t enough to see off Rossa in the last round.
The Johnston brothers – Ciaran and Conor – and Michael Bradley are the key men elsewhere that Clooney need to keep tabs on.
PJ and James O’Connell carry the scoring threat for the Clooney men, who face an uphill battle this weekend.
Forty years ago, Loughgiel were All-Ireland champions and they face Ballycastle in the final game of this weekend’s championship weekend in Cushendall (Sunday, 5pm).
The Shamrocks were 3-23 to 1-22 winners over Naomh Éanna in the first game in Group Two despite having to play with 14 men after Rian McMullan’s red card.
Shan McGrath (1-9) and Jack McCloskey (1-3) were the main scorers Enda Óg McGarry fortunate when this shot slipped through the ‘keeper’s hand for the third goal.
Loughgiel have been churning out winning minor teams, winning the last four titles, but will crave getting their hands on the biggest prize for the first time since Shay Casey’s decisive goal in the 2016 final win over Cushendall.
Fearghal McKiernan, Ryan McCook and Seamus McAuley were all on target for Ballycastle who played second fiddle on a day the ‘Dall again paid tribute to the memory of John McKillop.
The other game in Group Two takes place on Friday night in Slemish Park (7.30pm) when Naomh Éanna go in search of their first win when they take on Cushendall.
A Joe McLaughlin goal, on his debut, helped the Ruairi Ógs on their way against Ballycastle.
Joe Makey hit 1-3 in Naomh Éanna’s defeat at the hands of Loughgiel with Cormac Jennings their chief point scorer.
The ‘Dall will be eying up a victory that would set them up with a final group game with the Shamrocks that could potentially decide stop spot.