Middle men may win it for Enniskillen Gaels or St Colm's, Ballinascreen
fonaCAB Ulster Minor Football final:
Enniskillen Gaels (Fermanagh) v St Colm's (Ballinascreen) at St Paul's GFC, Belfast on New Year's Day (1.30).
Referee: B Toland (Antrim)
This season's Ulster Club Minor Football final could be described as a novel pairing.
No Fermanagh team has reached the provincial decider since 1988 when Enniskillen Gaels defeated Maghery after two-and-a-half matches.
Now the Gaels are back in the decider at Shaw's road with Ballinascreen the opposition.
“Yes, it is true that Fermanagh teams, in any grade, don't get many chances of winning an Ulster title so we aim to make the best of our opportunity,” said team manager Brendan Doris.
Ballinascreen feel the same, no doubt, about the clash between the two sides that impressed on their way to the final but may not have been among the favourites.
The Gaels blew away Ramor United's hopes by 11 points and then edged out Letterkenny's St Eunan's by three, after the Donegal champions had beaten the holders Burren.
Feature of the Erne winners is their spread of scoring as eight players shared in the 3-12 to 2-4 victory over the Breffni winners and six hit the target against St Eunan's.
Ballinascreen have been impressive, too.
They survived a tight test against Errigal Ciarán get through by two points and then dismissed Antrim winners O'Donovan Rossa 2-5 to 0-8, despite scoring only one point in the second half.
“That was a game of two halves,” recalled Ballinascreen team boss Jerome Bradley.
“We were playing into the bottom goals during the second half of the match with the sun in our eyes. It was coming in just over the crossbar and we shot a lot of wides.”
Manager Bradley explained that the team's main object in 2017 was to win the Derry championship – that was the goal that the team set for itself.
“When that was achieved the bar was set higher and now we are in new territory. I wouldn't call it bonus territory but this is a new competition and we are in the final. Finals are there to be won and this is a very prestigious competition, far beyond the tag of a tournament. We would dearly love to put our name on the cup.”
It would also please Enniskillen Gaels to get their name on the Jimmy McConville Trophy a second time and as Brendan Doris says they are not there to make up the numbers.
“Our games against Ramor and St Eunan's were two very different type of games. Against Ramor it was a free-flowing, open match but against St Eunan's it was much tighter and we had to dig in to grind out a result.
“Strangely, we played our best football in that match against the wind and we did get a bit of luck. You always need that in tight matches,” points out the Gaels' manager.
Both teams have a solid midfield pairing where games can be won and lost and the battle there will vital in the final.
Enniskillen have big middle men in Beacom, county senior panellist, and Horan, who has Mayo blood in his veins, while Ballinascreen have stars in Bradley and Logan.
This is where the game could be won and lost.
Of course, there are plenty of other players in the game that can have a vital bearing on the outcome and it will be the team that snaps up its opportunities best that should take home the honours.
There are strong ties with the present Gaels' panel and the one that was successful in 1988.
Corner-back Jack O'Hare, who stood down from a family cruise to play in the semi-final, is a nephew of '88 centre-back Conor McEnhill, while Ethan Beresford, who has fought back to fitness after an injury to claim a place in the squad, is a son of Eamon Beresford who played in the former Enniskillen winning team.