Kevin Lynch's start favourites but danger lurks in Dunloy attack.
Copy from Séamas McAleenan
Leadon Timber Frames Ulster Minor Club Hurling Cup final
Sunday 1pm in Ballinascreen
Dunloy Cúchulainn's (Antrim) v Kevin Lynch's (Derry)
LAST Sunday's semi-finals were expected to deliver tomorrow's final pairing and neither Dunloy nor holders Kevin Lynch's experienced a great deal of bother in reaching the minor club decider.
The Dungiven side probably had potentially the more difficult challenge, but 1-2 inside the opening two minutes set the tone for them and also laid out their game-plan.
The goal came inside 50 seconds of the starting whistle. Richie Mullan took a free deep inside his own half of the field and picked out Tiarnan McHugh racing from full-forward towards the wing.
McHugh gathered, held off the challenge and played Kelly in for the goal.
Eoin Cassidy quickly added two points from midfield.
Mullan makes things happen in the heart of his side's defence, sweeping across the half-back line and taking the long frees, while Cassidy was very impressive in his industry around midfield and in his accuracy from distance – six points from open play in the semi-final, all from outside the 45m line.
Meanwhile McHugh is the target for any long ball out of defence and he uses his huge frame and mobility to get under the dropping sliotar, to take possession and then create problems, while Kelly, last year's goal-keeper and also a safe hand under a dropping ball, does a lot of hard work at centre-forward as well as making the runs to support McHugh.
Amazingly 14 of the 15 players who started and finished last Sunday's 3-17 to 0-14 semi-final win over Bredagh saw action in last year's final when they beat Tyrone champions Éire Óg from Carrickmore by 1-19 to 2-5. Goalie Niall McGonigle is the odd man out, replacing Kelly who is now at the fulcrum of the attack.
Last year they overcame Dunloy in the semi-final by 4-9 to 0-11, scoring 2-3 in the first seven minutes. Dunloy have quite a few changes from last season – and will also have changes from last Sunday's semi-final when they defeated Eoghan Ruadh from Dungannon by 2-18 to 0-9.
They achieved a place in the final without using midfielder Oisin McErlaine nor Seaan Elliott and Eoghan McGrath from the full-forward line that beat Loughgiel in a replayed Antrim final three weeks ago.
All three will come back into the frame for a place in the final and there is one forced change with Callum Scullion picking up a straight red in an incident ten minutes from time last Sunday.
No fewer than 11 of Dunloy's 18 points came from Pádraig McGilligan frees, but that statistics hides the fact that the Dungannon defence was under constant pressure and regularly overstepped the mark in their challenges. The problem was the pace of Dunloy's attacks and how well they could use possession.
Dunloy's defence will remain the same as last Sunday, but it will be interesting to see how they cope with the presence of Tiarnan McHugh, who will be the midfielder in place of the industrious Scullion and how well they cope against Cassidy and Daragh McGilligan. Big questions needing big answers.
Seaan Elliott has to come into the attack and that will mean a disciplined marking job for one of the defenders, while Padraig McGilligan's ability to pressurise Richie Mullan will also have an impact on the result.
As holders with so many of last year's team available, Kevin Lynch's have to be favourites and that will nicely suit a dangerous Dunloy attack.
It should be a high-scoring and well-contested final.