Greenlough hope to continue fairytale run in Derry SFC
Greenlough v Ballinascreen (Saturday, Owenbeg, 4.45pm)
NOT even the most ardent Greenlough supporter could have visualised their team playing championship football in September, but they are there on merit after wins over Glenullin and Banagher.
They look to be taking a step up in their attempt to reach a first ever final when they take on ambitious Ballinascreen hoping to put their ongoing championship disappointments behind them.
Ballinascreen have trod a harder path than Greenlough. They saw off Bellaghy by seven points and caused an upset by beating Coleraine with six to spare.
We saw the two sides of Ballinascreen that day. They blitzed Coleraine with three early goals and then set up a defensive barrier in the second half which looked risky enough against 14 men.
Greenlough will be no pushover. They have Enda Lynn and Niall Loughlin, two of the best players in the championship so far. Others like Enda McNally, Niall Bradley, Brian McCallion and Christopher Bradley have been to the fore against the big boys.
Ballinascreen have what it takes to reach the final. In Benny Heron and Shane Mulgrew they have two cracking forwards and at the back Dermot McBride anchors a strong defence. They may not be just as strong around the midfield area but they can still make it difficult for the opposition given their physical strength.
Greenlough can make it tight but against Glenullin and Banagher they faded towards the end. If they can cure that ill, it could be an interesting finish.
Both sides have been able to build early leads so we can expect a frenetic opening 10 minutes or so.
However, while Ballinascreen are pre-match favourites, Greenlough could give them a stern test.
Slaughtneil v Glen (Sunday, Owenbeg, 3.15pm)
THOUSANDS of spectators will converge on Owenbeg on Sunday for the clash of neighbours Glen and holders Slaughtneil.
The dismissal of Glen star Emmett Bradley after a bust-up at the end of their quarter-final with Kilrea caused some concern.
There was a widespread belief that Bradley had grounds for appeal and that he could be exonerated when Derry CCC looked at the video of the game.
However, it remains to be seen what other misdemeanours the viewing of the video might throw up.
Slaughtneil – with three successive county titles, two Ulster titles and two All-Ireland final appearances – will start as firm favourites against the promising young Glen team.
Quite a few of Enda Gormley’s squad have been there as the club has won four Ulster minor titles and the last three Ulster U21 tournaments in the last seven years.
They may lack the experience of the champions but their pace and slick teamwork will give the Emmett’s a very demanding task.
Slaughtneil were not overly impressive in beating Swatragh and Ballinderry. That said, indiscipline proved costly for the Shamrock’s who had two players red-carded.
Slaughtneil’s strength lies in a defence containing Chrissy McKaigue, Karl McKaigue and Brendan Rogers. The very experienced Patsy Bradley and the speedy Padraig Cassidy are a formidable force at midfield.
In attack, Glen probably have greater options with Stevie O’Hara, Paul Gunning, Conor Convery and Emmett Bradley (if available).
Glen will be hoping to have full-back Ryan Dougan available. He was injured in their win over Lavey and missed the quarter-final against Kilrea.
Their defence, despite having players like Cathal Mulholland and Conor Carville can be suspect under the high ball and with the tall Shane McGuigan good in the air, Slaughtneil will no doubt use that tactic.
With so much hinging on what happens on the injury front and in the disciplinary room, the jury will be out on Glen’s chances.
Local pride will be a wonderful source of inspiration but Slaughtneil will still be strong favourites to advance to another final.