Coalisland's McErlean triplets provide stern obstacles for St Columban's
Danske Bank Corn Cúchulainn final: St Columban’s, Kilkeel v St Joseph’s, Coalisland (Wednesday, Crossmaglen, 12pm)
WHEN Carlow football manager Steven Poacher lines out his St Columban’s, Kilkeel football team in today’s Danske Bank Corn Cúchulainn final, he could be forgiven for thinking he is seeing double – or even treble.
The reason is that togged out for Richard Thornton’s St Joseph’s, Coalisland are the McErlean triplets. And to add to the confusion, all three of the Derrylaughan siblings play in defence.
Shea, James and Ciaran have locked in with centre-half back Liam Cushnahan, also from Derrylaughan, and full-back Cathal O’Neill from Na Fianna to backbone the Coalisland team that has steadily improved in each game through the autumn.
They began with group wins against Dungannon’s Integrated College and St Patrick’s College, which sent them through to a qualifier against St Bricin’s, Belturbet.
Having eased through that obstacle, they defeated De La Salle, Downpatrick by 2-17 to 3-11 in the quarter-final and then took out St Joseph’s, Enniskillen by 4-6 to 0-10, a game in which both Shea Coney and Ruairi Campbell excelled.
St Columban’s also had to overcome some Fermanagh opposition a fortnight ago to reach the decider.
Indeed, they had to dig very deep to beat St Aidan’s, Derrylin by 2-8 to 0-7, taking an early six-point lead and holding on for the rest of the game.
However, they had to play that semi-final without sick centre-forward Cormac Clarke and injured corner-forward Sean Higgins, both of whom are reporting fit and healthy for today’s throw-in.
Christopher Flanagan, captain and Down minor panellist, is a huge player for them at midfield, while James Devlin and Matthew Brennan are the mainstays in defence.
The accepted belief is that Kilkeel have come through the tougher side of the draw and are therefore slight favourites for the cup. Coalisland, though, will push them close.