Magheracloone rise from the rubble to take on Down champions Glenn in Ulster Intermediate clash
Ulster Club Intermediate Football Championship semi-final: Glenn John Martins (Down) v Magheracloone Mitchells (Monaghan) (tomorrow, the Athletic Grounds, 1pm)
MONAGHAN champions Magheracloone have had to rise out of the rubble and practically start from scratch after their grounds and clubhouse were destroyed as a consequence of the collapse of a disused nearby mine last year.
Gaping cracks opened across their pitch and the entire site had to be abandoned forcing the Mitchels outfit to play home games at the Annaghminnon club over the border in county Louth.
The club also used facilities at neighbours Inniskeen as well as Kingscourt (Cavan), John Mitchels (Louth) and the Monaghan centre of excellence at Cloghan before converting two fields in the parish into a temporary new base.
The 2018 “year from hell” undoubtedly contributed to the 2017 Monaghan senior finalists' dropping down to intermediate level last year but Magheracloone's impressive resilience saw them claw their way back up and beat Donaghmoyne last month to win their first title in the second tier.
Since then, James Kierans' side held off a late rally from Derry champions Forglen to win 3-10 to 2-10 at the Ulster quarter-final stage and tomorrow they face capable Down champions Glenn at the Athletic Grounds.
The Mournemen will need to be on their guard from the throw-in to prevent the Mitchells racing out of the traps like they did in the quarter-final. They led Foreglen 2-6 to 0-7 at half-time and extended their advantage to seven points with a little over a quarter of the game remaining before two goals hauled the Derry champions back into the contest.
But the Monaghan men kicked on again and a brace of frees from ageless former Farney forward Tommy Freeman and a Paudie McMahon point saw them progress to the semi-final stage.
Manager Kierans has three sons on the team in midfielder Jamie and half-forwards Allan and Barry while 2008 Allstar Freeman remains the dangerman up front alongside McMahon and the defence is anchored by Ward brothers Peter (full-back) and James (centre-half).
Against the 2004 Monaghan senior champions tomorrow is a Glenn side that has also had to do a lot of rebuilding this year.
Club stalwart Tony Bagnall took over a side that had lost county stars Shay and Ronan Millar and Niall McParland who has taken a teaching job in Qatar.
Versatile former Down captain McParland returned home for the county final win over Newry Shamrocks but Glenn had to do without him for their Ulster opener against Fermanagh champions Kinawley.
A nip-and-tuck affair was decided by a goal from Patrick Brooks and the Down underage prospect is one of a clutch of talented young forwards in the team alongside Cormac Clarke and Mattie Bagnall.
Since clinching the Down title – Glenn's first since 1991 when current manager Tony Bagnall was the captain – the Mourne champions have refocussed on this provincial campaign and showed impressive resilience to overcome Kinawley last time out.
They did ride their luck at times - Ruairi Corrigan missed a late penalty - but restricting the Fermanagh champions to just six points over the hour was an excellent effort and if their defence stands up again tomorrow they have the forward power to force a win. On the flip side, Magheracloone have the edge in experience and their pedigree at senior level means they have to start as favourites tomorrow.