Hurling and camogie

All-Ireland club champions Slaughtneil strong favourites in Derry Camogie semi-final

Séamas McAleenan

Walsh's Hotel Derry Senior Championship semi-finals: Martin Mulholland Cup: Sat Sep 22: Bellaghy: 2pm: Slaughtneil v Lavey; 4pm: Swatragh v Eoghan Rua

THE Walsh's Hotel Derry Senior Championship semi-finals are likely to throw up contrasting games this afternoon in Bellaghy if we go on the evidence of the quarter-finals last weekend.

Unsurprisingly back to back All-Ireland club champions Slaughtneil are strong favourites to beat Lavey in the opening game.

The Emmett’s are showing four changes from the team that lined out in Inniskeen at the end of March to claim the second of those titles. All four absentees also played in the 2017 final in Croke Park.

Dervla and Denise McGuigan and Clare McGrath have all been out for the season while Therese Mellon is returning from injury and could have been used if required in last Friday’s comfortable success over Ballinascreen.

Youngster Céat McEldowney was a regular sub in all the championship games last season and, now a year further on in her camogie development and with 2-3 against the ‘Screen, she is ready to nail down a starting spot.

Also getting, and taking their chances, are defenders Orla McNeill and Brídín McAllister as well as midfielder Cliodhna Mulholland, all fitting seamlessly into a well-oiled machine who mix good game management with pace and accuracy.

It is a big ask from Lavey to beat them after the Gulladuff girls struggled to put Newbridge away on Saturday afternoon. Yes they do have sharp forwards in Teresa McElroy and Aine Murphy, but I think that the focus will be much more on how their defence will cope while their forwards might have to live on scraps.

The second game, scheduled for 4pm looks a more evenly-matched contest with Swatragh impressing in their one-sided quarter-final against Castledawson and Eoghan Ruadh featuring most of the same team that put them at the top of Derry before the arrival of Slaughtneil.

Grainne McGoldrick might not be able to exercise the same influence on games as she once did, but her presence in attack will garner scores from play and frees.

Then there is her sister Méabh, Roseanna McAleese, Maria Mooney and Megan Kerr, all super players.

They will certainly test Swatragh who are also shaping up well with strong young players all coming to the fore; the McNicholl sisters, Shannon Kearney, Dara McGuckin.

The game last week, albeit far too easy, will not do them any harm, probably sharpening them up while Coleraine sat on their hands.

Slaughtneil will definitely be in the final with Swatragh quite likely to join them.

The focus on Sunday in Derry is on the Glenshane Coach Hire Intermediate semi-finals in Newbridge where Bellaghy are the strong favourites to return to senior camogie after their impressive showing in taking out Dungiven in last weekend’s quarter-final.

They will face Slaughtneil reserve team who will certainly give them a decent game while in the earlier game Glen have enough experience to edge out Banagher.

Glenshane Coach Hire Derry Intermediate Championship semi-finals: Newbridge, Sunday: 12pm: Glen v Banagher; 2pm: Bellaghy v Slaughtneil

Down Intermediate Championship final: Saturday Sep 22: 1pm in Aghaderg; Ballyholland v Bredagh

Down Senior Championship semi-finals: Saturday Sep 22 (4.30pm): Kilclief: Ballygalget v Clonduff; in Liatroim: An Riocht v Portaferry

TODAY is semi-final day in the Down senior camogie championship with a repeat of last year’s decider in Kilclief at the same time as Portaferry and An Ríocht face off in Liatroim.

The Kilclief fixture should draw the biggest crowd as last year’s final was quite competitive, decided by goals from young Clonduff stars Cassie Fitzpatrick and Katie McGilligan (2-8 to 0-9).

But it was Ballygalget’s first final in almost half a century with a young team, several of whom featured in the under 14 side that led to the revival of the club less than a decade ago and they have collected titles right through the grades.

The Ards’ club’s challenge is built around the four Savage sisters, three of whom played in Croke Park a fortnight ago. Nicola Braniff at full-forward gives them a bit of experience and she scored one of the goals last week in a 4-5 to 1-7 win over Liatroim.

Champions Clonduff, chasing a sixth title since their maiden victory in 2007, are much more experienced in terms of age, titles and inter-county representation with no fewer than 10 on the Down panel this season.

They are the clear favourites, but Ballygalget will not lack confidence after seeing off the 2016 champions last week.

Could it be an all-Ards final, something the county hasn’t had since the late 1960s?

Many fancied Ballycran, winners of three crowns in the last decade, to come through the other half of the draw, but they were sensationally knocked out by An Ríocht who now have to take on Portaferry.

The Ports have lost a couple of finals over the past few seasons, but the form of Niamh Mallon and young Saoirse Sands up front suggests that they have the fire-power to make another decider.

They were not tested at the back by Ballela last week, but An Ríocht will certainly see what they have in that area today.

The Fearons, Colleen and Aine, accounted for 3-6 out of the 3-9 to 1-10 victory over Ballycran in the quarter-final and they carry the threat that Portaferry must close down.

If they manage to subdue that threat, Mallon and Sands should take them into the final.

Earlier in the afternoon in Aghaderg, there should be a competitive enough Intermediate final between up and coming Bredagh and a little more experienced Ballyholland. Hard to call this one, but it would certainly boost either to reach senior camogie.

Ulster Club Championship: Bridie McMenamin Shield semi-finals: Sunday Sep 23: 2.30pm: Mayobridge: Mayobridge (Down) v Naomh Treasa (Tyrone); 3.30pm: Loughgiel : Loughgiel (Antrim) v Glenullin (Derry)

THE provincial semi-finals for the Bridie McMenamin Shield are down for decision tomorrow (SUNDAY) and should produce two very interesting games.

Loughgiel’s greater experience saw off a late rally from Armagh champions An Port Mór last week with full-forward Cara McIntyre shooting 1-4 from their 1-11 total.

Further out the field they are solid enough with young players such as Mary McKillen, Anna Connolly and Méadhbh McCormick adding pace and poise to their more experienced players.

Glenullin had a very easy quarter-final beating Crosserlough by 7-12 to 0-1 and it may not have been the best preparation for taking the short trip over to Loughgiel.

They were impressive enough in their run through Derry with Anita McCullagh and Teagan Mullan their main score-getters with the more experienced Michelle Comer a steady influence on the younger players.

Traditionally the Antrim champions have done well in this competition in recent years, while Derry have struggled to get past the first round. However Glenullin looked equipped to put together a strong challenge and they might just upset the odds.

In the other side of the draw are Mayobridge and Dungannon’s Naomh Treasa who won the competition last season in a replay against Dunloy.

That will have built up their experience and self-confidence and they would look to be the team to beat this year. But their strength is also their weakness.

Last year in the drawn game Roisin McErlean accounted for all their 1-7, including the last minute goal that forced the replay. In the replay she delivered all seven points in a single point win. Control the 19-year-old student and the game is there for the taking it would seem.

Naomh Treasa though are pretty good at the back as well with players such as Cara Little, Cora McNulty and Laura Barker difficult to bypass.

Mayobridge could affird to concede 1-4 in the opening seven minutes of the Down final three weeks ago and still win with something to spare, due to the accuracy of Mollie Smyth who shot 2-8.

Again they are solid enough at the back – bar that early county final blip – with Down senior manager at full-back and county player Orla Caldwell at centre-half back.

If Mayobridge can curtail McErlean’s shooting, they have a decent chance of making the final in a low-scoring game. On the other hand if Dungannon have unearthed a second scorer this season, they will be very difficult to beat.

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