Doherty: Johnnies in a better place

15/9/2019     St Johns     goalkeeper  Simon Doherty    Picture  Seamus Loughran
15/9/2019 St Johns goalkeeper Simon Doherty Picture Seamus Loughran

St John’s are under no illusions of the task they have ahead of them tomorrow when they travel to Dunloy to face Loughgiel (4.30pm) with the winner progressing to the final four of the Antrim SHC.

Ulster champions Dunloy and Cushendall have already secured their spots, topping their respective groups, while O’Donovan Rossa and Ballycastle will also lock horns tomorrow for the chance to qualify for the semi-finals.

Simon Doherty, the St John’s goalkeeper who kept two clean sheets in the group stages, believes his side will have to play at their absolute peak if they are to see off league champions Loughgiel.

“Loughgiel are one of the top teams and they’ve had massive success over the last couple of years at underage,” said the former Armagh netminder. “Those players have been coming through into the senior panel over the last couple of years.

“It's actually been a tough few days, we got very sad news on Thursday morning. One of our very esteem club member Brendan McQuillan passed away suddenly on Thursday morning.

“Hopefully we're going to be able to give a performance this weekend for everyone in our club, please God we’ll be able to do that.”

The Johnnies head into the game off the back of a decent performance against Dunloy in the final round of the group stages, but remain without the likes of Peter Callin, Donal Nugent, Aidan McMahon and Michael Bradley, who are all sidelined with long term injuries.

“We're really looking forward to this game. It's been a quite tough year in terms of a number of injuries and the whole dual aspect but over the last few weeks, some of the injuries have cleared up.

“We had quite a good performance against Dunloy in round three, so it's given us a little bit more confidence over the last few weeks. Hopefully, we can keep guys fresh over the next few days and deliver another good performance on Sunday.

“The reality is, we're playing against a Loughgiel team who have had a really, really good year. They won the Antrim Division One league, and they were definitely the form team throughout the league.

“They won two of their three championship games and finished second in the group, so they're definitely a very, very tough proposition for us. But hopefully, we can keep ourselves fresh and keep ourselves right.”

A constant throughout the round robin structure was St John’s ability to rack up big scores. They hit 0-21 against O’Donovan Rossa and Dunloy while they added two goals to that tally in their 2-21 to 3-17 victory over Clooney Gaels.

“That’s one thing that we've been trying to focus on over the last few weeks is taking our chances,” added Doherty. “Sometimes over the last couple of years, we’ve maybe missed chances and other teams have punished that.

“So that's something that we're critical of, that we have to try and keep the scoreboard ticking as much as possible and that maybe try and force things.

“We've good forwards there and guys that can shoot so it's all about trying to get those guys into good positions and hopefully when they get on the ball, we can take our chances as a team.”

O’Donovan Rossa proved too strong for St John’s in the opening round of the championship, and they also overcame Clooney Gaels, either side of an 11-point defeat to Dunloy.

But that was enough to secure second place in the group for the 2021 beaten finalists and they travel to Corrigan Park on Sunday (1pm) with the hopes of overcoming Ballycastle in the first knockout clash of the campaign.

Ballycastle picked up just one win in the league format, a last round victory over Naomh Eanna, knocking them out of the championship, after suffering back-to-back defeats to Cushendall and Loughgiel.