GAA Football

Aghagallon an emerging force in Antrim football according to Lamh Dhearg ace Ryan Murray

Holders Lámh Dhearg are given as fifth favourites to retain their title, and start with a tricky opener against Aghagallon on Sunday.
Cahair O'Kane

Northern Switchgear Antrim SFC: Lámh Dhearg v Aghagallon (Sunday, 5.30pm, Glenavy)

THE day when Aghagallon join the band of serious challengers for the Antrim senior football title does not look to be all that far away.

Since winning the intermediate double two years ago, they’ve come up to senior and continued their progression as they continue to integrate a band of talented young players.

They currently sit top of the bottom half following the split in the leagues a few weeks back and they’ll be sitting in the long grass hopeful of springing a surprise on reigning champions Lámh Dhearg in Sunday’s preliminary round tie.

When the sides met in the league, Aghagallon hit the Hannahstown men with a huge start, racing into a 1-6 to 0-1 lead. The Lámhs turned it around but as Ryan Murray admits, that wouldn’t have happened had the conditions not played their part.

“I’ve got to know a few of the Aghagallon boys in recent years coming up through the ranks with Antrim on the minor and senior panels, and playing against them in the league, they’ve probably got the better of us in the couple of years since they came up to Division One.

“We’ve beaten them once and they’ve beaten us twice. This year we were eight or nine down. It was in the warm weather, there was a water break after 17 or 18 minutes and if it wasn’t for that, we probably would have got beat out the gate that night.

“The break killed their momentum and we got it back to tight enough at half-time, and thankfully saw the game off.

“They’re such a young team with some great players, some of them coming through playing away in MacRory football and getting a good run, you can see there’s a confidence building in Aghagallon.

“If not this year then definitely in the next few years, they’ll be right up there in Antrim football.”

The holders are priced as fifth favourites with the bookmakers to retain their title, behind a resurgent St Gall’s, Cargin, Creggan and the St John’s side they beat in last year’s decider.

Creggan’s win over St Gall’s in the league earlier this week seemed to throw a different light on it again, and Murray admits that the race is even more open than it was twelve months ago, but that it bodes well for Antrim football.

“I think it’s set up to be very open. That’s probably the way you want the championship to be. That’s how it was last year and this year looks the same.

“From a supporter point of view and a general Antrim viewpoint, it’s good to see a competitive championship where everyone can beat the opposition on their day.

“We wouldn’t be having any thoughts any further down the line than this weekend.”

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