GAA Football

Ulster Intermediate previews

Réalt na Mara star Jamie Brennan is a doubt for Sunday's Ulster IFC quarter-final against Clann Éireann 
Niall Gartland & Pádraig Kelly

Ulster Intermediate Club Football Championship quarter-finals: 
Réalt na Mara, Bundoran (Donegal) v Clann Éireann (Armagh)
(Sunday, Ballyshannon, 2.30pm)

CLANN ÉIREANN arrive in Sunday’s match in confident mood after completing a league and championship double, ensuring they move up to Armagh’s senior league next season.

Led on the line by Kieran Robinson, Clann accounted for St Killian’s, Whitecross in the Intermediate county final nearly a month ago by 2-13 to 2-8 - but the victory was more convincing than the five-point margin suggests, with Éamon Reavey’s 56th minute goal - leaving it 2-12 to 2-7 - proving a false dawn for Whitecross. Man of match Paul McKenna’s late score from distance put the finishing touches on Clann’s first T-Met Intermediate football title since 2002.

The Lurgan side begin their quest to become the first Armagh representatives to win the Ulster Intermediate title against Donegal champions Réalt na Mara. The Bundoran side thrashed Naomh Colmcille in last weekend’s Donegal final by 4-17 to 0-4, but the win was tempered by the early loss of star forward Jamie Brennan with a hamstring injury. The multi-talented Brennan has starred for Donegal’s underage hurling teams and was part of League of Ireland soccer side Finn Harps’ underage development squads.

The diminutive youngster was also at the forefront of Donegal’s run to a first All-Ireland minor final in 20 years against Kerry in 2014. Brennan’s second-half goal in the final – he plundered Kerry for 1-2 – sparked a late comeback, but they eventually fell by four points to Jack O’Connor’s side. His club survived a scare against semi-final opponents Aodh Ruadh, but the pre-Championship favourites were otherwise comfortable in their run to an easy win against Naomh Colmcille.

Brennan had scored 1-1 in the final, before being forced off through injury after 25 minutes and manager Brian Gavigan has reported that it remains to be seen whether he will recover in time for Sunday’s match.


Naomh Seosamh, Glenavy (Antrim) v Irvinestown St Molaise’s (Fermanagh) (Sunday, Corrigan Park, 2.30pm)

IRVINESTOWN have had nearly five weeks to prepare for Sunday’s Ulster quarter-final in Belfast after clinching their first Intermediate title since 2011 in September’s county final against Teemore.

Their opposition had the best of the early exchanges before a flurry of points from Liam McQuaid, Stephen Sheridan and Ronan Campbell left it even at the break. James Duffy goaled for Irvinestown three minutes after the resumption and it proved to be the pivotal score in their three-point win (1-12 to 1-9).

Unbeaten since losing to Teemore in the secound round of league fixtures earlier in the year, Shane Goan’s side have built up a serious head of steam going into Sunday’s match. Goan - a player-manager who flitters between midfield and the half-back line - has star quality throughout his team, with Liam Murphy, Sheridan and Gary Maguire all particularly impressive in this season’s reversal of fortunes after a number of years without a championship victory.

Glenavy enter Sunday’s match in extremely trying circumstances, with the tragic death of their manager Francie Doone last Sunday. The former midfielder died suddenly while taking part in a charity cycle race in Armagh, organised in aid of leukaemia research.

A statement released by Antrim GAA said Doone's death had saddened the entire community: “Just over a week ago, Francie managed his Glenavy team to the Antrim Intermediate Football Championship and was preparing for the Ulster campaign against the Fermanagh champions when tragedy struck while participating in a charity cycle event.”

Doone’s side justified their billing as pre-match favourites in the Antrim final against Dunloy with a 0-15 to 0-5 victory. Dunloy only managed one point after the break, and late points from Niall McCann and the Gallagher brothers – Owen, Patrick and Karl – put a nice gloss on the scoreline.


Edendork St Malachy's (Tyrone) v Loughinisland (Down) (Sunday, Healy Park, Omagh, 2.30pm) 

EDENDORK qualified for the provincial competition after finishing strongly against Urney in the Tyrone Intermediate final.

Inter-county stars Niall Morgan and Darren McCurry are accustomed to playing at the highest levels in Tyrone colours, but their club’s win against Urney ended a 30-year wait for a championship title. McCurry was customarily cool in front of goal when finding the net against Urney and the likes of skipper Harry Óg Conlon and teenagers Paul Donaghy, Stephen Corr and Conn Kilpatrick were equally influential in relegating Urney to their third final defeat in six years.

Kicking the last three points of the game after Urney had staged a late comeback, Edendork can also summon confidence from their semi-final victory against their fellow east Tyrone side Cookstown, All-Ireland Intermediate champions in 2010 and '13.

Their opponents Loughinisland have a few high-profile names of their own. Down legend and Loughinsland skipper Dan Gordan was the best player on the pitch in the county final against An Ríocht, showing just why Benny Coulter believes the 6’3” midfielder should have been recalled to the Down panel earlier this year.

The 'Island curtailed Martin Clarke as well as could be expected in that comfortable 3-11 to 0-8 win and were further boosted by the return of inter-county hurler Gareth ‘Magic’ Johnson in their first round victory in Ulster against Greenlough a fortnight ago, recovering from a five-point deficit after 15 minutes to eventually prevail 2-15 to 0-11. Rory Mason topped the scoring list with five points, but it was Johnson’s goal in the 52nd minute which ended the game as a contest, playing a one-two with Paul Digney before calmly finding the net.


Ballyhaise (Cavan) v Doohamlet (Monaghan) (Sunday, Kingspan Breffni Park, 12.45pm) 

BALLYHAISE are in uncharted territory in Sunday’s quarter-final, ending a 47-year wait to prevail in a high-scoring Cavan Intermediate football final a month ago against Arva.

Kevin Tierney struck early with a goal and two points to help Ballyhaise into a 1-6 to 0-3 lead, but Arva shook themselves off to turn the game into a real end-to-end classic. Ballyhaise eventually held out, with late points by Pádraig Moore and Stephen Smith, to win by 2-13 to 1-14. The Cavan side's success was also memorable for a different reason - goalkeeper Eamonn Brady, a three-time SFC victor with his native Mullahorn - lined out alongside his 18-year-old son David.

That win came a year to the day from their Intermediate final loss to Cootehill Celtic and they have also maintained their Division One status in recent weeks.

Unlike Ballyhaise, Doohamlet have recent experience of playing in the Ulster Intermediate Championship. Current manager Trevor Duffy was Fergal Reed’s right-hand man in the club’s first ever intermediate success in Monaghan in 2012 and they showed no signs of nervousness in Ulster, blazing a trail to an Ulster final appearance against Lisnaskea, which ended in defeat.

They followed that up with another county title two years later, losing out to eventual All-Ireland winners Cookstown. Doohmamlet take their place in Ulster again with a close-fought 1-11 to 0-12 victory over Carrickmacross in the Monaghan Intermediate final. Four points down at the break, man of the match Barry McBennett goaled with 10 minutes remaining to give Doohamlet the perfect launching pad for their eventual victory.

Inter-county players Colin Walshe - who was sent-off at the death for a second yellow - and Barry McGinn’s late points secured their place in Sunday’s match.

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