Monaghan SFC semi-finalists battle for final place
IT IS down to the last four in the race for the Mick Duffy Cup for 2015 as Scotstown and Castleblayney and Clontibret and Monaghan Harps battle it out for the honour of playing in the 2015 County final.
The two teams who have figured most in recent championship finals, Scotstown and reigning champions Clontibret might be regarded as favourites to advance, but Castleblayney and Monaghan Harps are not there to make up the numbers and would certainly not be happy with being regarded as such, as they are fully prepared and fully intend to have a major impact on the concluding stages of this year’s senior football championship.
Scotstown and Clontibret are in the semi finals with straight victories while Castleblayney and Monaghan Harps had to come through the qualifiers system, the back door, but they have made the most of their opportunities in the second chance element and are in the semi finals on merit.
Clontibret would be by far the more experienced regarding senior championship action as in the last 10 years they have contested seven County finals, winning the championship out right on five occasions. For Scotstown the drive is to get back into the decider and put right what they let slip last year.
Scotstown v Castleblayney (today, Clontibret, 5pm)
THERE WAS a time in the not too distant past when the meeting of Scotstown and Castleblayney was the classic pairing for the final of the senior football championship and it is also a rerun of last year’s semi final which Scotstown won by 2-15 to 0-11.
Scotstown came into this championship seeking their 16th title having won their 15th back in 2013 but the pain of their defeat in last year’s final still hurts and that is going to be a major driving force for the entire team. If Scotstown win on Saturday they will be playing in their third final in a row this year and they will be prepared to shed every last drop of blood to regain the senior football championship title.
The players who are central to Scotstown’s plans need no introduction either inside or outside Monaghan as the Hughes brothers, Darren and Kieran, are cornerstones of the Scotstown team and the level to which they will be allowed to dictate matters this evening will go a long way to deciding the outcome.
Castleblayney last won the senior football championship in 2003 but with their tradition and record in the championship they will firmly believe they can reach the final given how they have resurrected their prospects following a disappointing opening round performance and defeat.
So the scene is set for not only a battle for possession and scorers but a real battle of wills between these long-standing rivals but on championship form so far Scotstown get the nod to advance.
Clontibret v Monaghan Harps (tomorrow, Scotstown, 3.30pm)
THE CHAMPIONS versus the pretenders to the throne could be one way to describe this semi-final pairing that is sure to attract a big crowd to Scotstown tomorrow afternoon, Sunday. Clontibret go into the game with an impressive championship CV seeking their 16th title in all and also seeking to put titles back-to-back having regained the senior championship title last year after losing out in the finals of 2012 and 2013.
Going on experience and relative championship records over the last 5 to 10 years Clontibret will certainly be going into this game as favourites having won the senior championship title in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010 before losing in the finals of 2012 and 2013 and regaining the title last year, all of which makes for a very experienced group of players, although a number of players who featured in the early years of that sequence have called it a day.
Monaghan Harps on the other hand go back to 1923 when they last won the senior football championship title and they last contested the final 24 years ago, back in 1991, when they lost heavily to Castleblayney.
Those records though will mean little to the players when these teams take the field tomorrow in Scotstown but the Harps do have to overcome something of a psychological championship barrier and this game will be a real test of character for them.
That said though, they have shown character in springing back from an earlier round defeat to take the scalps of Magheracloone to qualify for Sunday’s semi-final but it is difficult to see the champions beaten which would make for a Clontibret v Scotstown county final for the third year in a row.