Pomeroy to edge battle with youthful Donaghmoyne
Ulster Intermediate Club Football Championship final: Pomeroy Plunkett’s (Tyrone) v Donaghmoyne (Monaghan) (Sunday 2.30pm, Páirc Esler)
HEADING into the final ten minutes in Armagh and Newry two weeks ago, it was starting to look as though this year’s Ulster intermediate final would pit Castledawson against Aghagallon.
The champions of Derry and Antrim were underdogs for their respective semi-finals but both had raised well-timed green flags to strengthen their hopes of an upset.
But then Pomeroy and Donaghmoyne both did what they’ve been doing all year. They found a way.
Donaghmoyne clawed their way into the decider thanks to an injury-time free from Ronan McDonald that sealed a comeback from six points down to see off Aghagallon by a point.
Pomeroy had looked in real trouble early on against Castledawson but not for the first time this season, it was a Christopher Colhoun goal that sparked them into life.
He rattled the net when his side were six down towards the end of the first half, by which stage the Tyrone side had lost their starting midfield of Brendan Cunningham to injury and Ryan Loughran to a black card.
But they were the better team for the remainder of a thrilling, end-to-end encounter in the Athletic Grounds and deservedly held on for victory.
The emergence of county trio Frank Burns and brothers Hugh Pat and Kieran McGeary into key players has helped a side that retains a core from the side that won Ulster back in 2004.
Christopher Colhoun, Denver Nugent, Colin McCreesh, John McCourt and Ciaran McKenna remain in situ some 12 years after they beat Moneyglass in the decider.
They went on to reach the first ever All-Ireland intermediate final the following Easter Monday, where they were edged out by Cork outfit Carbery Rangers.
When they lost their opening round tie to Derrytresk last summer, a shot at a provincial title looked a million miles away for Pomeroy, but Errigal Ciaran pair Mark Harte and Adrian O’Donnell have guided them back on to the rails.
It was a goal from Colhoun that rescued the Plunketts in their opening round clash with Aghyaran and they went on to see off Gortin, Eskra and Derrylaughan to win the Tyrone title.
Their one injury concern ahead of tomorrow is Brendan Cunningham – who is also getting married later today. The big midfielder went off early on against Castledawson and will be available for the trip to Newry tomorrow, but whether he is fit to start remains to be seen.
Donaghmoyne wouldn’t have foreseen themselves in this position at the start of the year either, despite the presence of obvious shoots of promise.
A first ever county under-21 title earlier this year came on the back of league and championship doubles at minor level in 2014 and 2015, where they didn’t lose a game within the county.
As many as eight of that under-21 team could end up starting tomorrow afternoon in Páirc Esler.
Goalkeeper Shane Garland, defenders Mikey Murnaghan, Fergal Keenan, Niall Keenan and Stephen Cunningham, and forwards Ronan McDonald, Stephen Finnegan and David Garland are all in strong contention.
They will, however, be without wing-back Cillian Coleman, who misses out through suspension after picked up a two-game ban from being sent off in a League semi-final with local rivals Inniskeen just before their Ulster semi-final.
He had been in the side for their extra-time win over Bredagh. The way in which they dug out victory that afternoon has been a trademark all year – indeed, their under-21s found themselves eight points down to Magheracloone in their county final before recovering to win by one.
Experienced manager Paddy Martin will look to Frank Markey, Shane and Barney Kelly and Anglo Celt winner Padraig Donaghy for the bit of craft they will need to unpick Pomeroy.
The trends suggest that it will go to the wire, but the Tyrone champions may just have enough to collect the county’s sixth Ulster intermediate title.