Hurling and camogie

Blackhill facing difficult McCurtain's test

ROCK: Blackhill's Donal Courtney has excelled at the heart of their defence. Pic Philip Walsh
By Padraig Kelly

All-Ireland Club Junior Football Championship quarter-final: Thomas McCurtain's (Britain) v Blackhill (Monaghan) (tomorrow, McGovern Park, 1pm)

WHEN Blackhill manager Aidan McCabe took the short flight back to Ireland from Leeds following the All-British Championship final he would have been left in no doubt that Thomas McCurtain's would provide stiff opposition in Sunday's All-Ireland quarter-final in Ruislip.

The East London side defeated Glasgow Gaels 1-11 to 0-7 to collect the title for the first time. It will be only the club's second venture into the All-Ireland series after their hurlers also came up against Monaghan opposition in 2005, losing to Castleblayney by six points.

There is a Farney feel to the British side too with the McGuigans from Cremartin, Johnny and Paddy, accounting for 1-1 of their total in the final. Other players of note include free-taker Niall Coffey from Sligo while Colm O'Neill had a super game against Glasgow Gaels.

McCabe will feel that his side have the tools right across the pitch to tackle those threats though, and there really is a nice balanced feel to the Emerald's side.

Ryan Courtney and Donal Courtney have been excellent in defence while Ciaran Courtney has caught the eye in midfield. Team captain Hugh Byrne, a dual player with ‘Blayney who didn't play in that 2005 clash, can rotate between the midfield and full-forward while in attack the Geehan brothers, Tommy and Michael, have been scoring heavily all year.

Whatever happens at McGovern Park tomorrow, this has been a year that will live long in the memory for Blackhill – and one that supersedes 2016.

Back then they put three county final losses in-a-row behind them to finally lift the Monaghan Junior title. They progressed all the way to the Ulster final before losing out to Rock by a point after extra-time.

Twelve of the players that started that provincial final were in the first 15 for this year's Ulster decider against Buncrana - Shane Courtney, Gerard McArdle and Paul Finnegan the new additions to the side. They made no mistake second time around against the Donegal side.

They started slow and trailed 0-8 to 0-5 at the interval but they restricted their opponents to just a point after the interval.

That allowed them to catch and eventually overtake Buncrana with Tommy Geehan hitting a goal on the break late on to secure a 1-11 to 0-9 win.

Three weeks have passed from that game and it has allowed a few knocks to clear up. The manager has shown real professionalism in his scouting of Sunday's opponents and while it should be tough, Blackhill should find themselves in an All-Ireland semi-final tomorrow night.

MATCHBOX

Leinster Club Senior Football Championship final

Ballyboden (Dublin) v Eire Og (Carlow)

(tomorrow, O'Moore Park, 2pm)

EIRE Og will be hoping to follow the lead of Longford's Mullinalaghta who shocked Kilmacud Croke's in last year's Leinster final when they attempt to pull off their own surprise against Ballyboden.

The Carlow side actually faced Mullinalaghta in last year's provincial semi-final but were hammered 2-15 to 0-3. They have responded well this season though with wins over Castletown, Sarfields and Portlaoise as they chase a sixth Leinster title.

Ballyboden's sole Leinster success came in 2015 but they should really make it two with the likes of Colm Basquel, Michael Darragh McAuley and Conal Keaney driving them on, although the latter two started on the bench in their semi-final win over Garrycastle.

Verdict: Ballyboden

McGurk Cup

Tyrone v Louth

(today, the Dub, 1.30pm)

TYRONE manager Mattie Lennon may opt to rest some of the Eoghan Ruadh contingent even though they returned to training recently after their Ulster final loss to St Enda's. New players like Cormac Taggart and Tom McClements will likely get an opportunity while Conor Grogan has returned to the panel. This is Louth's second game of the competition having previously lost to Queen's 4-23 to 3-13.

Verdict: Tyrone

Ulster University v Fermanagh

(today, Jordanstown, 2pm)

NEW Fermanagh manager Joe Baldwin is preparing for his first match in charge of the Erne county as they travel to take on Ulster University. The Waterford native has been a familiar face on the Ulster Camogie scene in recent years and will now try and spark an upturn in fortunes for Fermanagh. Having worked with the Queen's hurlers in recent years, he should have some knowledge of today's opponents. The students were in action on Wednesday night when they lost a high-scoring contest with Down by nine points.

Verdict: Ulster University

O'Byrne Cup

Wexford v Westmeath

(today, Enniscorthy, 2pm)

PAUL Galvin will take charge of Wexford for the first time as they face Westmeath. The former Kerry star will look to get off to a winning start as they step up preparations for their Division Four campaign. Westmeath are the O'Byrne Cup holders but manager Jack Cooney has said that they will be experimenting today.

Verdict: Wexford

Laois v Offaly

(today, Portarlington, 2pm)

NEW Laois boss Mike Quirke has handed out five debuts for this game, including former League of Ireland pair Niall Corbett and Garry Comerford. There was a double blow for the Kerryman this week though after the Kingston brothers, Paul and Donie, indicated that they were not playing in 2020. Niall McNamee will play for Offaly this year having come out of retirement last season, but he is side-lined for this one.

Verdict: Laois

Kildare v Longford

(today, St Conleth's Park, 2pm)

A CHALLENGE match against Down has been part of Kildare's pre-season preparations and now the competitive stuff starts as they host Longford in Newbridge. New boss Jack O'Connor has named Daniel Flynn in his side, which would be his first county game since their 2018 Super 8 clash with Galway. Longford boss Padraic Davis has indicated that he will field a very young side.

Verdict: Kildare

Carlow v Wicklow

(today, Netwatch Cullen Park, 2pm)

CARLOW start life without Steven Poacher while Turlough O'Brien will also be without the likes of Sean Gannon who is on club duty with Eire Og. Davy Burke is taking charge of his first Wickow game, quite the achievement considering he is just 31 years old. He led Kildare to the All-Ireland U20 title last season.

Meath v Louth

(tomorrow, Pairc Tailteann, 2pm)

MEATH boss Andy McEntee has named an experimental side for this derby with the likes of Jack O'Connor and Matthew Costello getting their chance to impress. Wayne Kierans is still in charge of Louth but he has lost Jim McEneaney to retirement.

Verdict: Meath

Walsh Cup

Westmeath v Carlow

(tomorrow, Kinnegad, 2pm)

WESTMEATH have moved up from the Kehoe Cup and will be aiming to get off to a good start against Carlow. It has been a dramatic summer for the county with Shane O'Brien surprisingly replacing Joe Quaid as manager.

Verdict: Carlow

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