RGU enter bonus territory fully focussed for Down Senior Championship quarter-final against Clonduff
Morgan Fuels Down Senior Football Championship quarter-final: RGU Downpatrick v Clonduff (tomorrow, Pairc Esler, 3pm)
AN impressive win over Division One champions Warrenpoint booked Clonduff a showdown against Division Two winners RGU Downpatrick in the first of tomorrow’s quarter-finals.
Managed by former Tyrone star Ciaran McBride, the ‘Yellas’ were full value for their victory last weekend and will go into this last-eight encounter as favourites. However, they can expect a full-blooded challenge from an emerging RGU side.
Aidan Robinson’s team has lost just once this year and that defeat was away to Glenn (in action on Monday night against Ballyholland) in the league back in August. Since then the goal-hungry outfit have accounted for Carryduff (3-8 to 0-13) and Longstone (4-7 to 1-8) in the championship and they will be determined to reach the semi-finals for the first time since 2017, when they lost out to eventual winners Kilcoo.
“We’ve had a good year and, as far as we are concerned, our season has already been a success because we got what we wanted in terms of promotion,” said assistant-manager Collie Quinn disarmingly.
“Our league season was very good and we’re back where we feel we belong (Division One) with a good group of players. Every game for us now is a bonus and a learning experience for us – we have brought through a good group of young lads who are really gelling together as a unit.”
Opponents Clonduff opened their campaign with a nine-point win over Rostrevor and pushed defending champions Kilcoo all the way in round two before losing out 1-11 to 1-8. It’s 21 years now since Clonduff’s last championship title but McBride’s side proved that they are among the contenders for this year’s title when they regrouped in impressive fashion to see off fancied Warrenpoint last Sunday with goals from Eamon Brown, Tom Close (whose father Paul played on the RGU team that won Down championships in 1990, ’91 and ’93) and Arthur McConville.
“You write Kilcoo off at your peril but I thought Clonduff had them beaten a couple of weeks ago,” Quinn added.
“Clonduff would have been championship dark horses at the start of the year and they would have been disappointed to lose to Kilcoo but they were very impressive against Warrenpoint. They are a good team and very well organised all over the park with the O’Hagans (Darren and Barry) and the Carrs (Aidan, Ross and Charlie) and Eamon Brown up front.
“But the boys are looking forward to it and we’re looking forward to getting out onto a big pitch too.”
The wide open spaces of Pairc Esler will obviously suit the pace of Down vice-captain Caolan Mooney who transferred to RGU from Rostrevor at the end of last season. Gerard Collins is the pivot in the defence while evergreen former Down midfielder Peter Turley (now in his 20th season with the club) has featured at centre half-back and at full-forward this year. Alongside them and the experience of Jarlath Branagan and Damien Turley, RGU have added the likes of full-back Ronan Murphy, Down U20 Ulster winner Tom Smyth, full-forward Owen Cunningham, dual star Tim Prenter, Paul McNeill, Tom Savage, Morgan Fitzpatrick and Rory Quinn.
“We’ve had a group of fellas who all came through at the same time and they’ve added a fair bit of quality to what was already there,” said Quinn.
“We go into the game as underdogs – that’s just the way it is - but we’re all looking forward to it.”
Morgan Fuels Down Senior Football Championship quarter-finals: Kilcoo v Carryduff (today, Pairc Esler, 5pm) & Mayobridge v Burren (tomorrow, Pairc Esler, 7.15pm)
THREE clubs have shared the last 20 Down championship titles between them and two of those - Burren and Mayobridge - meet in tomorrow night’s headline slot at Pairc Esler.
Mayobridge were the dominant force throughout the noughties, winning seven out of the eight titles between 2001 and 2008 including a five in-a-row that began in 2004. Kilcoo have taken on that mantle since but Burren (winners in 2010 and 2011) were the team that temporarily broke the Magpies’ period of dominance when they captured the Frank O’Hare Cup in 2018.
The ’Bridge have already tested themselves against Kilcoo and impressed in the first half of the round one meeting in Newry. With Corey Quinn outstanding up front, Ciaran McKeever’s men led by two points at the interval but they lost patience and the initiative after the break and three second half goals meant the Magpies won by six at the finish.
But it was no surprise that Mayobridge returned to winning ways after the loss and since then they have accounted for Loughinisland (1-19 to 0-14) and, last weekend, Bredagh (4-8 to 2-6).
Meanwhile, Burren have progressed to the last eight by virtue of two wins against Division Two sides. In round one, they had little trouble beating Saul (3-21 to 1-8) and they followed up that victory by beating Glenn 2-12 to 0-8.
Tomorrow night’s game will be a serious examination of their championship potential and former Armagh and Down manager Jim McCorry is at the helm of the St Mary’s side. The Lurgan native will know Mayobridge’s calibre well having guided them to the Mourne county title, and the Ulster final, in 2004.
Meanwhile, three in-a-row chasing Kilcoo meet Carryduff this evening in a repeat of last year’s final. The Magpies won that game by seven points and go into their quarter-final after coming through competitive clashes with Mayobridge and then Clonduff.
Underdogs Carryduff headed for the backdoor after they lost their opener against RGU Downpatrick but bounced back by beating Saul and Longstone.