Small & Hyland Intermediate Football Championship Semi-Final (Owenbeg, Saturday, 4.15pm)
Slaughtmanus v Castledawson
Castledawson, winners of the Intermediate title twice in the last seven years, will be firm favourites to get past a sticky Slaughtmanus team at Owenbeg on Saturday.
The sides met in the final in 2014 when Slaughtmanus were very unlucky to lose but they don’t look as strong now.
Castledawson saw off a strong challenge from Ballymaguigan after overcoming Lissan and Drumsurn with plenty to spare. St. Mary’s got the better of Moneymore, Craigbane and Drumsurn but a flare up late in that game against Drumsurn saw full-back Cathal Deery get a red card and he will miss this game.
Former Castledawson manager Paddy Campbell is now in charge of Slaughtmanus.
The St. Mary’s are strong around the midfield area and decent in defence but they lack scoring forwards though that could change if Kevin King is back in the attack. He missed most of the season so far after suffering a collapse in a league game against Lissan and his inclusion would be a huge boost.
It is likely that Aidan Keenan, Conor Scullion and Niall McNicholl will carry too much scoring power for the St. Mary’s. Castledawson are likely to be without centre half-back Paddy Henry who got injured against Ballymaguigan but they still should have enough to get through to the decider.
Castledawson did not have a good league campaign and lost at home to Slaughtmanus, who improved after a poor start.
Injuries prevented the St. Malachy’s from having a full hand in most games and there was always a feeling that everything was aimed towards the championship. They have brought in good, young players from last year’s successful minor team and appear to be on the right track. Niall Keenan is a class defender and will be one of the ‘Dawson key men.
Slaughtmanus too have unveiled a bright new prospect in full forward Conor McGee, a player comfortable from open play and on frees. They will be hoping their big men around the middle like John Robertson, Barry Lyons and the vastly experienced Ian Doherty can give them a grip but Castledawson also have strong men in there with Aidan McElhone and Declan Lavery holding their own against most.
They look to have the edge in attack now that Niall McNicholl has moved forward from a defensive position. He hit six points in their quarter final win against Ballymaguigan but in that game Aidy Bradley was the star man with three superb points from play.
The Slaughtmanus defensive set up has been key to many a victory this season but in Owenbeg it is not always easy to defend given the large space.