Coleraine slight favourites ahead of 'Screen showdown
Ballinascreen v Eoghan Rua, Coleraine (tomorrow, Owenbeg, 2.45pm)
Coleraine will arrive at Owenbeg as slight favourites with their Wednesday night victory over Ulster champions Slaughtneil still sending shock waves across the county and beyond.
Liam McGoldrick, who missed a free seconds earlier, came forward to kick the dramatic winner and end Slaughtneil's quest for five successive championships.
Trailing 0-6 to no score early on and then 0-8 to 0-1 after twenty minutes of one-sided play, Coleraine had it all to do against the hot favourites. But Sean McGoldrick teams never panic and they certainly don't throw in the towel. The men from the Port gradually fought their way back into contention and when Colm McGoldrick scored the game's only goal midway through the second half it would prove the catalyst for victory.
The 2010 champions were decidedly slow to come to the boil in this year's championship. Expected to brush aside the challenge of under-strength Glenullin in round one, Coleraine rarely found top gear before winning just 2-10 to 0-12. And when the Eoghan Rua's raced to an early 2-3 to 0-3 score, care of goals from Barry Daly and Colm McGoldrick, the writing seemed to be on the wall for a very inexperienced Glenullin outfit. However, Coleraine were unable to put their opponents to the sword until a late Ciaran McGoldrick insurance point eased any Coleraine worries.
Opponents Ballinascreen also dug deep in their opening round squeezing out Bellaghy 2-10 to 0-14 in a real thriller. The ‘Screen held a 0-6 to 0-5 lead at half-time as both these well matched sides wrestled for control. The Wolfe Tones gradually crept ahead in the second half before Ballinascreen hit their first goal through star man Benny Heron. A second Heron goal, this one a rocket late on, handed St Colm's a two point win.
Victory brought Liam Bradley's side to a quarter-final meeting with Greenlough at O'Cahan Park.
Ballinascreen, led 0-8 to 0-3 at half-time with Brendan Heron proving a handful in the forward line and Shane Mulgrew nailing the frees.
Heron stretched the lead to six points early in the second period, before scores from Enda Lynn gradually reduced Greenlough's deficit. Niall Bradley's fisted goal briefly pulled the sides level at 0-11 to 1-08 in the 57th minute, before Carlus McWilliams once again restored Ballinascreen's lead with Liam Baker's side eventually progressing 0-13 to 1-9.
With so much championship intensity clocked in recent weeks, between the football and hurling, Eoghan Rua will have made full use of the club physio and masseurs since their mid-week win disposed of the champions.
‘Screen should be a little fresher, but with serious question marks over availability of three key players – Benny Heron, Barry Grant and Dermot McBride, Baker Bradley's team can claim the underdog tag in this one. However, that was the case this time last year when the pair met only to see Ballinascreen surprisingly prevail by six points.