THIS is the last big week end of club football in the county with the Intermediate and Senior Championships down for decision at opposite ends of the county. On Saturday the Intermediate final takes place at Ballymaguigan and on Sunday Celtic Park is the venue for the senior clash of Kilrea and Ballinderry.
The Intermediate final will be preceded by the Division One Reserve final between Ballinderry and Slaughtneil. These two teams are always strong at this level and following their 3-11 to 0-1 demolition of Ballinascreen it is Slaughtneil who will go in as slight favourites. Ballinderry overcame a strong Kilrea side by 1-11 to 0-12 in the other semi final.
When the two best teams in Intermediate football reach the final then it is going to be a toss up. Swatragh relegated last year from senior football have regrouped and after a stuttering start to the season are now on a long unbeaten run. They take on Craigbane also a well balanced outfit in what looks to be the makings of a thriller.
So far the Intermediate championship has been a great competition with some exceptionally good games and both these teams have figured in them. Craigbane held of Faughanvale in the first round by 0-14 to 0-12 and in the semi final beat Drumsurn in a wonderfully exciting game by 2-19 to 5-8. In the quarter final Swatragh and Steelstown produced a superb game with teenager James Kearney grabbing an injury time winner to the delight of his father the manager Artie Kearney.
Both teams are strong in the middle of the field with Swatragh’s county player Michael Friel a real rock of a man. He should have a great contest with Adrain McLaughlin the big and very mobile Craigbane midfielder who is in great form at present.
Craigbane have been a bit dodgy in defence at times during their run to the final and no doubt Swatragh will try to utilise the height of big full forward Ruairi Convery by pumping in high balls. However in attack the St. Joseph’s have been very impressive. The long serving Gavin Conwell drifts out from the full forward line to leave space for the deadly finishing of Lee Moore and his younger brother Ryan.
Swatragh rely heavily on the free taking ability of Eugene O’Kane for scores but they also have Robert McWilliamns who is good for a goal and of course Convery just back after missing two months with a knee injury.
Don’t expect anything other than a tight contest which may take a second game to decide.
Ballinderry Favourites For Senior Title.
Ballinderry have won nine Derry senior football titles but they should have won more, they were shocked in the final last year by rookies Coleraine and in the previous three years twice by Glenullin. Injuries played a big part in them not achieving what they should have but they look set to deny Kilrea a first ever title at Celtic park on Sunday.
After 68 years in business Kilrea have reached their first ever senior final and after a decade of under age success their arrival on the big stage is no surprise.
Former player Peter Doherty now living outside Omagh has taken them to the final in his first stint as manager and with his great managerial experience which included winning an Ulster under 21 title with Tyrone he will have his charges fully geared to spring a surprise.
Ballinderry look to have the stronger panel of players and the greater experience in men like Enda Muldoon, Niall McCusker, Darren Conway, Conleth Gilligan and Kevin McGuckin. Kilrea on the other hand are quite a youthful team and apart from James Donaghy their long serving full forward most of the players are only in senior football for a few years.
They will look to their midfield of the Kielt brothers James and Charlie to give them a foothold against Kevin Moss McGuckin and Martin Harney two more seasoned campaigners. The Kilrea duo are in good form but Ballinderry usually pull the brilliant Enda Muldoon out to this area when the distress signals appear.
The Shamrocks will be hoping to have ace forward Colin Devlin fit, this highly skilled player has been troubled by injury and he was badly missed in attack when they struggled to put away Dungiven in the semi final.
Ballinderry have already beaten Kilrea in an earlier round but the Pearses came through the qualifiers to set up a second meeting in what is now one of the big rivalries in the county. When they met previously each team had three players sent off in their highly charged clash at Lavey but or this big game both managers will have their players on a tight rein.
Kilrea started with a narrow win over Magherafelt who missed a late penalty and then they went under to Ballinderry by four points. They beat Banagher in extra time and this time Banagher missed from the spot. They came up against Loup in the semi final and were trailing when Loup had a player sent off. Maybe fortune has favoured Kilrea in their run to the final but they will be determined to take their first ever title.
Ballinderry are the only unbeaten team in the competition coming through with wins over Lavey, Kilrea, Bellaghy and Dungiven. This was just about as tough a draw as any team could have got and based on their consistency the Shamrocks are favourites. They have lost only one game out of twenty this year and that was against Kilrea in the league so manager Martin McKindless will have his players well warned against complacency.
Club Results Roundup
The big shock in Division One was Glenullin’s twelve point win over Coleraine. The home side with goals from the outstanding Dermot O’Kane and the experienced Dominic McIlvar led by 2-5 to 0-2 at the interval and when Neil McNicholl hit a third goal for Glenullin to open up a fourteen point gap there was to be no way back for Coleraine. This win lifts Glenullin out of the relegation area.
Castledawson look set to be in the relegation play off when they lost a local derby to Magherafelt by 2-10 to 1-7. Star of the young Magherafelt team was Christopher Spiers who scored 1-6. Niall Higgins got the other goal. Paddy Henry pointed five frees for the losers and their goal came from Fergal Gribben.
Banagher lifted themselves out of the danger area with a convincing 2-12 to 1-9 home win over Loup. Conor Lynch and Gavin O’Neill got the goals and the ever accurate Mark Lynch hit seven points. Impressive Loup full forward Declan McVey scored 1-2 for the losers.
In the Ulster Club senior hurling semi final Kevin Lynch’s Dungiven missed a bagful of chances before going under to reigning Antrim and Ulster champions Loughgiel. After forty minutes the Derry champions were still in the game but Loughgiel took total control in the final third and Dungiven had no answer going down by 2-18 to 1-5.
In the Division Two League Swatragh had a good away win at Ballymaguigan by 3-11 to 1-12 but earlier in the week they had been surprisingly held to a draw by Ogra Comcille. That was as good as it got fro the Colmcilles who were hammered 5-16 to 0-6 by Banagher on Sunday.
Steelstown look certain to get a top four play off as they showed no mercy to local rivals and bottom of the table Dolans beating them by 2-20 to 0-2. In form Stephen Cleary scored 1-12. First half goals by Eugene Mullan and Ryan Deighan gave Ballerin the winning platform against Drumsurn in a mid table clash. The visitors went on to win by 2-7 to 0-7.
Lissan having their best ever season beat Limavady in a high scoring affair by 2-14 to 3-7. Desertmartin conceded to Claudy and Foreglen beat Moneymore by 1-13 to 0-9 as they closed in on a top four spot.