Blackhill to make up for 2016 anguish
Ulster Club Junior Football Championship final: Blackhill (Monaghan) v Buncrana (Donegal) (tonight, Healy Park, 5pm)
MORE Donegal delight or will Blackhill be able to exercise the demons of 2016? Those are the talking points as the Emerald's prepare to face Buncrana in this evening's Ulster Junior Football final at Healy Park.
Having failed to produce a winner in the first 16 years of this competition, the Tir Chonaill county are now going for three in-a-row following the success of Naomh Colmcille and Red Hugh's over the last two seasons.
Buncrana's path to the provincial final suggests that they are well fit to continue that winning tradition.
In their first outing they travelled to Armagh to take on a strong Collegeland outfit and they emerged eight-point winners with John Campbell grabbing their goal in a 1-14 to 0-9 win.
Next up for Malachy McCann's side was a meeting with competition specialists Rock who had their eye on title number four. That will have to wait though as the Scarvey side emerged victorious after a dramatic penalty shoot-out finish.
Former Crusaders goalkeeper Harry Doherty had been between the sticks for most of that game, but his extra-time dismissal meant that Sean Parker was the man in goals for penalties. Rock missed the target twice and Buncrana progressed.
The club appealed the red card but Doherty found out yesterday that he was unsuccessful so it will be Parker who starts in Omagh. He had been the number one goalkeeper in 2018 and played a key role as the side earned promotion to Division Two so he shouldn't be too unnerved by his late call-up.
It does means that Doherty will not get the chance to try stop one familiar face in Philip Donnelly, who was Man of the Match in Blackhill's dramatic semi-final win over Cavan's Killinkere.
The duo have been in opposing squads on a number of occasions in the Irish League, Doherty with Crues and Donnelly with Warrenpoint Town – although the latter is now focussing solely on Gaelic football after getting the nod from Monaghan boss Seamus McEnaney.
He forms part of a very exciting attacking line-up, one that should prove even more dangerous than in the semi-final. The Geehans, Michael and Tommy, had been the side's heaviest scorers this year but Michael didn't feature while Tommy didn't score.
In this case the bulk came from Donnelly, who managed six points from play, and Ciaran Courtney while captain Hugh Byrne scored the late goal that forced extra-time.
Courtney is the go-to name at the back with five of the six starting defenders the last day using that moniker. They would have been happy to have kept a free-scoring Killinkere to 11 scores over 80 minutes, less so that two of those were goals.
When chatting about Aidan McCabe's side most point to their attacking threat but their defence has been fairly mean. In their six championship games they have kept their opponents to less than 10 scores on four occasions. One of the two over was that Killinkere game that had an extra 20 minutes added on.
The two semi-finals were nail-biting affairs and this final should be another close run affair. Blackhill have the pain of 2016 to drive them on and that may just provide enough motivation for the Farney side to fall over the line.