Eoghan Rua break new ground but Monaghan's Scotstown are favourites to take the next step in Ulster
Ulster Club Senior Football Championship semi-final: Eoghan Rua, Coleraine (Derry) v Scotstown (Monaghan) (tomorrow, Healy Park, Omagh, 1.30pm)
EOGHAN Rua boldly go where no team from Coleraine has gone before tomorrow when they take on Scotstown in the last four of the Ulster senior championship tomorrow.
Monaghan’s ‘An Bhoth’ have won this competition four times while the Derry champions’ only previous appearance came to an abrupt end back in 2010 when Down’s Burren saw them off at the quarter-final stage.
Eight years on and Sean McGoldrick’s side were full value for their first ever win in the competition a fortnight ago when they beat Cavan’s Castlerahan in Kingscourt. They will have taken huge confidence from that result.
“We played so badly in 2010 when we got through so it was great to put in a performance at least,” said manager McGoldrick afterwards.
“In 2010 we were such a young team and for us to win (the Derry championship) was such a big thing, it was hard for us to get ourselves down to earth again and get ourselves ready. This time we did a bit of celebrating but the team is a bit more experienced, a bit mature and they knew that winning Derry wasn’t enough.
“We also have the pressure of knowing that Slaughtneil have been so successful and we’re representing Derry as well and we want to put up a good show, a good performance.
“Hopefully, that win has got us on the road.
“Scotstown is another tough one but at least we’re there. They’re a very strong outfit, all we can do it prepare our best for it.”
The same day that Eoghan Rua broke their Ulster duck, Scotstown travelled to Burren and came away with a three-point win despite kicking 13 first half wides. With the influential Kieran Hughes black-carded, the Down champions wreaked havoc in the Scotstown defence when their direct running and were denied a late penalty shout which could have won them the game.
Scotstown fans will hope that is the slice of luck most teams need on their way to a major trophy.
Like their Monaghan rivals, there is a spirit about this Coleraine team that makes them formidable opponents. They are the underdogs and they know it but that will only make them work harder tomorrow.
There is a lot to like about Sean McGoldrick’s team, not least his five sons – Colm, Barry, Sean Leo, Ciaran and Liam – who form the spine of the team and work their socks off in the Coleraine cause.
Their cousin Niall Holly’s industry in midfield produces a lot of ball for Colm and Ciaran McGoldrick to work with in attack. Colm scored 2-1 in the quarter-final win but Ciaran’s movement and passing was eye-catching as were the classy runs of Sean Leo and mobile centre half-back Barry who were involved in the moves that set up the goals.
The McGoldrick’s are vital performers but there are many other cogs in the Eoghan Rua machine including Ruairi Mooney, Gavin McWilliams and Declan Mullen in attack while the midfield battle of Paul Daly and his brother-in-law Darren Hughes is an interesting sub-plot to the game.
Meanwhile, Scotstown arrive in Omagh tomorrow with Allstar Rory Beggan as their number one man. During the summer Beggan made his way to Healy Park alone to practice his frees before Monaghan beat Tyrone in the Ulster Championship.
He knows the ground well and so do the team’s other Farney county stars Darren and Kieran Hughes and nippy forwards Shane Carey (top scorer with five points against Burren) and classy lefty Conor McCarthy.
Beggan has become almost impossible to legislate for. He scored from play against Burren – not the first time he has done that as a goalkeeper - and remains superb from dead ball situations and from kick-outs.
Kieran Hughes can play anywhere from full-back to full-forward while brother Darren can also operate up front but is more likely to be used in midfield, alongside the experienced Francis Caulfield, where his pace and physicality can be fully utilised.
Going on the evidence of the quarter-final, Coleraine looked most comfortable when they were allowed time to build from the back and bring attacking runners through on angled runs from their own half.
But when Caslterahan pushed up on them in the second half of the game, the Eoghan Rua side found themselves suffocated in their own half and struggled to play their way out of trouble under pressure.
‘An Bhoth’ play a traditional kicking game based on out-scoring their opponents which is well suited to pressing high up the pitch, denying Coleraine time and space and forcing them to attempt to play through them.
If Coleraine can strike in the first half and get their noses in front by the interval – as they did in the quarter-final – an exciting climax to the game could be in store.
Scotstown will struggle to cope with their workrate and movement if they allow them time in their own half so the Monaghan champions will take them on man-for-man and look to force their way into the final.
Ulster competition is invariably nip and tuck and an early goal for Coleraine will make this very interesting but it will be a surprise if tomorrow isn’t the end of the road for the Derry champions.
If they improve their shooting from the quarter-final, Scotstown get the nod to win this and go through to the decider.
Paul Daly (Eoghan Rua) v Darren Hughes (Scotstown)
FAMILY ties will have to be set aside when brothers-in-law Daly and Hughes go head-to-head in midfield at Healy Park tomorrow. Monaghan ace Hughes is married to Daly’s sister and his physical, gung-ho game could rip holes in the Eoghan Rua defence tomorrow if he gets enough ball in his hands.
Rory Beggan’s kick-outs are normally pin-point so it’ll be up to Daly and his midfield partner Niall Holly to minimise the influence of Hughes and try to turn the Farney star towards his own goal as often as possible.