GAA Football

Fascinating Ulster U21 final in store as Carryduff and Dromore lock horns

Carryduff's Daniel Guinness escapes the challenges of the St Brigid's defence in an Ulster Under 21 Football Tournament semi-final thriller at Creggan GFC. Picture by McIlwaine Media
Brendan McTaggart

Bank of Ireland Under 21 Ulster Club Cup Tournament: Paddy McLarnon Cup: Sunday February 17 (Throw in: 2pm)

Dromore (Tyrone) v Carryduff (Down)

Six matches, 21 goals and 110 points later and we’ve reached the Bank of Ireland Under 21 Ulster Club Cup Tournament decider.

Where the Paddy McLarnon Cup will reside for 2019 will be decided on Sunday afternoon as Tyrone champions Dromore take on Down kingpins for the last two years, Carryduff.

Now in its 10th year, these two counties have dominated the competition from its inception, winning the first five with a split of three to two in favour of the Down winners while the winners of the respective counties have competed in two finals, the record currently standing at one each.

Both finalists have impressed on their way to the final and while Carryduff’s draw has seen them play just one match, it was without any shadow of a doubt, the match of the tournament so far.

Against St Brigid’s we were promised a frenetic opening 10 minutes, what we got was an hour of pure entertainment with a late controversial point to win the game.

Dromore’s progress has been somewhat more serene. They too started their campaign late, having to wait on the winners of the preliminary round tie before playing in the last quarter-final. Despite a nine month gap between competitive fixtures, they saw off Clann Éireann before accounting for tournament favourites Magherafelt in the last four.

The two teams couldn’t be more different with their styles of play. Carryduff are unstructured, off the cuff and free flowing while Dromore have a system of play that makes them hard to break down while pace and accuracy in attack that has proved profitable so far.

For Dromore, they’re hoping to become the third side from Tyrone to claim the coveted Paddy McLarnon Cup. Following in the footsteps of St Enda’s, Omagh (2012) and O’Rahilly’s Clonoe (2014) but for their manager Paddy Montague, the plans are being pushed to one side. The Dromore man is getting married to Rebecca O’Brien on Saturday in Enniskillen before making the journey to Creggan on Sunday with his team. Clearly hoping for a double celebration, Monatgue gave us his assessment of their semi-final win: “We were slow in starting against Magherafelt but we regrouped at half time and the lads gave us a reaction in the second half. I felt we controlled the game after half time and it was a serious shift from the lads but that type of performance won’t be enough for us on Sunday.

“If we’re going to win it’ll take a complete 60 minute performance.”

The Dromore manager continued by heaping praise on their final opponents: “They’re a good side. You couldn’t help but be impressed with how they go about their game. Daniel Guinness, Pierce Laverty and Josh Connery had very good games against St Brigid’s while Owen McCabe was outstanding at 11.

“Ronan Beatty got man of the match and was very accurate from frees. He wins a lot of ball for them up front and he’s someone we’ll have to be careful of on Sunday.

“They play a lot of free-flowing football and that can be hard enough to stop. We’re trying to come up with plans to counter that on Sunday.”

The Tyrone 2019 U21 championship is already underway and Montague’s side have an action packed week ahead: “It’s bizarre aye but it’s a nice situation to be in. It’s not everyday you get to an Ulster Final but after Sunday we have to play Omagh on Wednesday, Carrickmore on Friday then Errigan on Sunday to get caught up again.”

With players involved in the Sigerson Cup this weekend, it’s posed a problem for the Tyrone champions as Montague revealed: “We tried to get the match moved.

“It didn’t suit a few of our boys with the Sigerson Cup on this Saturday. It wasn’t possible and you have to respect Creggan club for that. “They run a terrific competition and it’s not easy getting space in the calendar so we’ll just have to deal with it.

“It’s put a couple of boys in a position to make a choice but we’re leaving it up to them.”

Montague’s side have already made history but are hungry for more as he concluded: “The whole town’s buzzing. It’s the first time a Dromore men’s team have reached an Ulster Final and you can tell these boys want it bad.

“Training has been class since the semi-final and the whole team are up for it. Hopefully we’ll do the business on Sunday and bring the Paddy McLarnon Cup back to Tyrone.”

Carryduff’s route to Sunday’s final although just one match, has been memorable already.

Their derby against St Brigid’s was one for the ages as both sides went toe to toe for the 60 minutes.

In the end, a late point from Daniel Guinness sealed the win and as the Down champions manager DJ Morgan told us, it lived up to the pre-match expectations.

“We watched the match back again and it was an enjoyable game of football. End to end stuff and lived up to the hype. It was everything everyone thought it would be,'' he said.

“We went toe to toe and we were fortunate enough in the end to come away with the win.

“It was one of those games that as a manager, you wouldn’t have been too disappointed to have come away with a loss.”

Morgan was complimentary of his final opponents when he continued: “Dromore were impressive. Especially against a Magherafelt side who were probably the pick of the teams after the Quarter-Finals. The way they took Enniskillen Gaels apart, we all thought they’d be the team to beat but Dromore did a number on them.

“They set themselves up, took the big hits and rode out the early storm and they controlled the second half about five minutes in.

“They work well as a unit. There’s always one sitting but it’s never the same person. They’re a well drilled but typical Tyrone team.”

Morgan reported a clean bill of health for his side from the their semi-final win but one of their goal scorers from the county final win over Bryansford misses out.

“Rory Reilly is missing for us. He missed the semi-final as well with a groin strain but he’s been waiting for a while on a shoulder operation.'' he added.

“He’s had trouble with it for the last couple of years where it’s popped in and out and he got the chance last week to get it sorted. We’re gutted for the lad.”

Carryduff are aiming to become the third club from the Mourne County to claim the U21 trophy, hoping to emulate Burren (2010, 2011) and Bryansford (2013).

Morgan told us it could be a pivotal moment for his club: “It’s massive for the club. To be in an Ulster final is massive but to win it would be unreal. You can see the effect its having on the club already.

“The senior lads are in pre-season at the minute and they’re training harder, they want to be part of this.

“It would give the whole club and give everyone a lift.”

It’s sure to be a cracking contest between two excellent sides.

This competition has produced some memorable moments so far this year and Sunday’s final has all the ingredients to provide another tantalising encounter.

Can Carryduff produce another 60 minutes of brilliance against a Dromore team who can mix their game when the occasion arises?

All roads lead to the Staffordstown Road, between Randalstown and Toomebridge, for a 2pm throw in on Sunday.

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