CLUB hurling championships have concluded or are currently down to the decider across the province.
In Derry Sleacht Néil continue to keep a stranglehold on the Fr Collins Cup with a convincing win over Kevin Lynch’s.. Despite leading by a point at half time the Dungiven challenge petered out in the second half with Sleacht Néill totally dominant during the second period. Derry clubs have a serious challenge on their hands trying to bridge the gap.
The arrival of a few new faces into the Sleact Néill team will be a welcome boost to Mickey McShane. Ruairi Ó Mianáin in particular has settled in very well to senior hurling – still at school at the Gaelcholáiste in Dungiven, he looks to have a very promising future ahead of him. The Derry hurling fraternity hope to see him continue to develop and be a big player for both club and county in the future.
Portaferry edged out old rivals Ballycran in the Down final. Despite being big favourites before the game, many in the know about Down hurling realised that Portaferry were unlikely to get everything their own way. The decisive score in the game was a late penalty by Ronan Blair, and it was enough to get them over the line.
The biggest shock so far in the province came in Tyrone where Naomh Colum Cille defeated Eoghan Ruadh in the semi final to set up a final against Carrickmore. It will be the first time in a number of years where the Tyrone decider will not be Carrickmore versus Dungannon. Naomh Colmcille will now attempt to pull off another shock victory in the final but Carrickmore will be firm favourites to take the title.
The Armagh final takes place this Sunday with Middletown and Keady due to resume hostilities. Keady needed a replay to overcome Cuchullains in their semi final, whilst Middletown have looked consistently strong throughout the championship. Craobh Rua will be very happy with their season in Armagh.
Last year’s Ulster Junior champions had notable victories over Derrynoose and Cuchullains in the group stages which marks excellent progress for the team this year.
Like all Ulster counties Armagh will be glad to see more clubs stepping up and being competitive at senior level.
The Cavan round robin phase concludes this weekend. Mullahoran play Pearse Óg in the final group game with the winner advancing to the final. Cootehill look more than likely to await the winner of that game, if as expected they defeat East Cavan Gaels in their remaining group game. Cootehill will be most people’s favourites to ultimately retain the Cavan crown.
In Monaghan and Donegal, Casteblayney and Setanta respectively have already secured county titles.
All hurling eyes across Ulster will be on Corrigan Park this weekend for the eagerly anticipated final between defending champions Dunloy and Cushendall. Dunloy have looked very dominant en route to the final whilst Cushendall had to weather the concession of two late goals against Loughgiel in their semi final encounter.
Cushendall will feel they have a real opportunity to cause an upset on Sunday. They will want to drag Dunloy into a war of attrition, keep the game close and not let Dunloy settle into their rhythm. Dunloy have very slick forwards and are capable of doing a lot of damage if afforded any room or space. Cushendall’s ability to close down the Dunloy attack is likely to be the key factor on Sunday. If they can slow the Dunloy forwards enough they can spring the upset.
The underage hurling and Go Games season is finishing up in most counties at present. Clubs, coaches, parents and players normally get a short but very welcome break at this time of the year before resuming with an indoor coaching programme over the winter period. Hopefully everyone gets the batteries re-charged and ready to go again in a few weeks time. Hurling development is pretty much a year-round activity now and it is great to see the game continue to grow in the province.
An -13 hurling tournament in Derry concluded on Sunday past. There was a noteworthy victory for one of Ulster’s newest hurling clubs, St Finbarrs, based in the GAA heartland of South Derry.
St Finbarr’s defeated Ballinscreen in the plate final, another milestone in the tremendous progress the club continues to make. Congratulations to all involved, hopefully plenty more success to come in the future!