Aghagallon boss in 'no lose' match against home club Lamh Dhearg
Lamh Dhearg v St Mary's, Aghagallon (Corrigan Park, 2pm Sunday)
NO-WIN scenarios are often talked about – but Kevin Murray is arguably in a 'no lose' situation tomorrow.
The Aghagallon manager also happens to be a member of Antrim SFC quarter-final opponents Lamh Dhearg, was previously their boss, and has family connections all around the Hannahstown team and set-up.
His brothers Conor and Ryan are stars of the side which won the Saffron county crown three years ago and only lost last year's decider to Cargin after a replay. His teenage son Ross is on the Lamh Dhearg panel – and his dad Brendan just happens to be the kit man.
Kevin has been in this situation before, two years ago, taking on his home club when they were reigning county champs, with his St Mary's side well beaten by 2-15 to 0-9 at Glenavy.
However, Aghagallon are likely to provide a sterner test this time around, at Corrigan Park, despite losing three of their six matches in Group 3. The last of those defeats was a 'dead rubber', a nine-point loss away to Aldergrove with the top two places in the section already settled.
Current champions Cargin had secured top spot, and consigned Aghagallon to second, with another win over them in round five – but on both occasions there was only the proverbial 'kick of a ball' between the two teams. Erin's Own won by 2-9 to 0-12 in Toome, and then by 1-16 to 3-8 on the southern side of Lough Neagh.
The still young Aghagallon side will look to the likes of Gareth Magee, Adam Loughran, and Ruairi McCann for scores, with the last-named perhaps coming up against county colleague and captain Declan Lynch.
Lamh Dhearg must be fancied to progress, though, having been the best team in a tricky three-team Group 2.
Martin Lynch's men won their first three outings, scoring one, then two, then three goals as two wins over St John's sandwiched a success at Rossa. The Lamhs then lost their last match, at home to Rossa, but their place at the top of the Group 2 table had already been secured. Even so, the hosts might have maintained their 100 per cent record if a late Daire Larkin effort had gone in instead of coming back out off a post.
With Eoin McKeown, Terry McCrudden, and Ben Rice adding to the threat posed by the Murray brothers, and with veteran Paddy Cunningham still accurate from play and from placed balls, the likelihood is that most of the Murrays will be celebrating their team's victory while Kevin may have to settle for being happy for his club rather than his charges.
Kickham's, Creggan v Naomh Eanna, Glengormley (Dunsilly, 2pm Sunday)
Tomorrow's other quarter-final pits the 2018 finalists Creggan against Naomh Eanna, both of whom have had mixed results so far.
The Glengormley outfit started with a solid if unspectacular victory at home to Gort na Mona, 1-10 to 2-4 – then caused a shock by coming from behind to defeat St Gall's on their own patch, 1-10 to 1-8.
A Covid case at the Turf Lodge club meant that they could not fulfil their fixtures, so the visit of St Gall's to the Hightown Road in midweek settled top spot.
The Milltown men, the former county kingpins, indeed former All-Ireland champs, turned back the clock to record a 1-11 to 1-8, despite conceding a goal after taking too long over a water break.
Creggan did get their scheduled four matches in Group 1, and only secured top spot in the last of those, away to Ahoghill on Wednesday. Only a heavy defeat would have cost the Kickham's a place in the quarter-finals but they made sure of more than that by racking up a 12-point victory, 1-16 to 0-7.
Creggan had earlier eked out narrow wins over Casement's and at home to Ahoghill, before losing by two points at home to the Portglenone outfit, so must be considered slight favourites against Naomh Eanna.