Coalisland and Glenullin lock horns in Ulster league final
Ulster Senior Football League Final: Glenullin v Coalisland (tomorrow, Ballinascreen, 2pm)
STEPHEN Curran’s winning point was all that separated these teams at the group stage four weeks ago in ‘The Glen’ as John McKeever’s Coalisland edged out the home side in a well-contested encounter.
In recent years, interest in the Ulster League has waned but McKeever, who helped Ballinderry win it last year recognises the benefits.
“With a new management team coming in it gave us an opportunity to look at all the players. We’d be looking for challenge matches anyway and even the intensity level is up a wee bit because you want to try and get out of your group.”
Last season, Coalisland limped out of the championship against eventual winners Trillick and this season will have to plan without former Tyrone forward Paddy McNeice who has departed for the US.
Tomorrow, the Fianna won’t be able to call on Tyrone player Padraig Hampsey but former county ‘keeper Johnny Curran and Plunkett Kane will bring plenty of experience.
Other key players include Stephen McNally and the Toner brothers – Gerard, Philip and Brian.
Dermot Thornton powered Dungannon to MacRory glory in 2008 and Cormac O’Hagan was scoring heavily in the competition this season and will be a useful addition to McKeever’s plans.
Glenullin have responded strongly to their relegation from the senior grade and this Ulster League run will give them the perfect platform to get their promotion race on track.
With a NFL break this weekend, goalkeeper Eoin McNicholl will be ‘available for selection’ but hamstring victim Gerard O’Kane is ‘three weeks away’ and will miss out.
The Mitchel’s still have plenty to offer with Neil McNicholl, Eoin and Paddy Bradley giving them a potent attacking threat.
Former wing-back Brian Mullan is enjoying a new lease of life in his new midfield role with youngsters Caolan McNeill, Mark and Daniel O’Kane gaining valuable experience in defence.
“We sat down at the start of the year and decided to put a wee bit of pride back into the jersey. On a Tuesday and a Friday night we have over 40 players out training and from that aspect it is pleasing,” outlined manager Liam Bradley.
Conleith Gilligan scored three points as Ballinderry lost to Glenullin in the semi-final and as McKeever’s trainer in Coalisland ‘Deets’ will be plotting the downfall of Bradley’s team for a second successive week.
Winners of this competition in 2007 and 2013 Bradley highlights the importance Glenullin place on it and is glad to be getting top quality games in preparation for the Derry league.
“Our aim this year is to get back playing Division One football in Derry and we know it’s not going to be easy.”