Warrenpoint and St Eunan's to contest Paul McGirr Final
Paul McGirr Tournament (Ulster U16 Club Football) Final: Cumann Pheadair Naofa, Warrenpoint (Down) v St Eunan’s, Letterkenny (Donegal) (Gardrum Park, Dromore, 2pm today)
ADVERSE weather may have delayed this Ulster U16 decider by a week but the expectation is that the game will be worth the wait.
Performances from both teams so far have left neutrals in no doubt that the two leading U16 teams in Ulster will be in opposition and a high-scoring entertaining encounter is in store.
The depth of talent in the Letterkenny forward line has been the talking point of the tournament so far - having amassed a total of 7-28 in their two games to date there is no doubt the scoreboard will be working overtime this afternoon.
Warrenpoint, having come through the preliminary round where they defeated Monaghan champions Aughnamullen, will be making their fourth trip in five weeks to Gardrum Park and will be well-prepared for the upcoming challenge.
A narrow quarter-final victory over Antrim side St Brigid’s of Belfast sent them on to face Tyrone’s Killeshil in a scintillating semi-final, where they emerged two-point victors.
In wing-forward Eoghan Byrne they have one of the stars of the tournament so far, Byrne’s pace and power having been a major factor in all three of their victories on the way to the final. His battle with St Eunan’s attacking half-back Peadar MacConndubh looks set to have a major bearing on final destination of the trophy.
CPN also have a strong midfield pairing of Eoin Carr and Ruairi McCormick, who amassed eight points between them in their semi-final victory.
Full-forward Aaron McBurney is another who has regularly troubled the scoreboard and has scored goals in each of the three games played so far, but the St Eunan’s defence would appear to be a much tougher barrier than anything the Down boys have faced as yet.
A key to Warrenpoint success will be the ability of their excellent sweeper Kohree Hourican to cut out the early direct ball the Letterkenny team like to play. While lacking in physical stature, Hourican’s ability to anticipate and cut out through balls has led to him being excellent in the role, and he has the pace to get forward to join his attack when required.
Manager Darren Rice is understandably proud of what his charges have achieved so far and excited about the challenge that lies ahead, saying:
“Cumann Pheadair Naofa are delighted and honoured to be involved in the final of the Paul McGirr tournament. This group have done the whole Warrenpoint community proud, mixing it with the best in Ulster and reaching the final of this prestigious tournament.”
Rice is confident his team can rise to the challenge but is well aware that, having conceded an average of 17 points per game, his defence will need to make major improvements to cope with an outstanding opposition forward line.
Having only just completed their domestic championship the previous week, St Eunan’s faced Derrygonnelly in the quarter-final with the final score-line of 7-15 to 3-5 not doing justice to the Fermanagh men. In fact only the brilliance of ’keeper and team captain Eoghan O’Baoill denied Derrygonnelly another few goals.
Eunan’s went into the semi-final against fancied Derry champions Magherafelt as underdogs.
However, whatever defensive work Pauric Ryan put in with his charges on the training field certainly worked with the Letterkenny lads keeping a highly-rated Magherafelt at bay conceding, just six scores over the hour.
Their half-back line of Cormac O’Cathain, Sean O’Riain, and MacConndudh put up a barrier that could barely be breached, setting the platform for a tremendous display from their forward colleagues.
The superlative Shane O’Domhnaill and his midfield partner Seamus O’Ceallaigh have been utterly dominant so far with O’Domhnaill in particular marking himself out as a Donegal star of the future.
Towering full-forward Padraig McGettigan, a former Irish youth basketball player has proved to be the ultimate foil and will be looking to add to his four-goal tally in the final.
Centre-forward Darragh Ellison has been superb so far in the tournament but it is the twin threat of speed demons Conor O’Domhnaill and Michael O’Gallchoir that will be most worrying to the Warrenpoint defence. The duo’s pace and directness has proved too much for anything they have come up against in Gardrum Park.
Eunan’s manager Ryan is glad to see his boys having made the most of the competition so far, stating: “Winning the DonegalcChampionship was fabulous but getting the chance to compete against Ulster’s finest really is a wonderful opportunity that we very much appreciate.”
It is expected that Dromore’s new Canon Tom Breen stand will be filled to capacity for the first time as a great tournament comes to an exciting finale. All proceeds go to the ‘Spirit of Paul McGirr Trust’ and its wonderful work with the disabled and under-privileged in Lusaka, Zambia.