Steelstown face strong Kerry challenge in quest for All-Ireland final spot
AIB All-Ireland Club IFC final: Na Gaeil (Kerry) v Steelstown Brian Og's (Derry) (today, Connacht Centre of Excellence, 2pm)
STEELSTOWN will need to pull out their best performance of the season if they want to take their dream season all the way to next Sunday’s All-Ireland final.
Hugh McGrath’s side backed up a maiden Derry title with a mixture of flair and grit to get to the summit of Ulster.
Standing in their way are Kerry champions Na Gaeil, who romped their way to All-Ireland junior honours two years ago.
On top of that, nine of the Tralee-based side were part of the St Brendan’s divisional team that lost to eventual champions Austin Stacks in the Kerry SFC semi-final on penalties.
Na Gaeil have won all eight games in the championship, scoring 13 goals in the process, while only Ballydonoghue, Beaufort and Clare champions Corofin, from a penalty in the Munster final, have breached Devon Burns’ goal this season.
Steelstown will he hoping Ben McCarron, Cahir McMonagle and Eoghan Bradley can pull their defence out of shape with their attacking game that has served them well through Ulster.
Marty Dunne is the only player in their squad not available for selection, with Eoghan Heraghty not putting a foot wrong in their Ulster campaign behind a defence where Diarmuid Baker, Donncha Gilmore and Eoghan Concannon are important players.
It’s at midfield where Steelstown will face their biggest test, with Ryan Devine, Oran McMenamin and Shane O’Connor the players that will dictate the shape of this afternoon’s clash.
Na Gaeil have inter-county experience in the form of ex-AFL star Stefan Okunbar, Diarmuid O’Connor and brothers Jack and Andrew Barry.
O’Connor – who faced Ben McCarron in the 2017 All-Ireland minor football final – came to midfield at half-time in the Munster final win over Corofin to add to their mix.
The Tralee men have strength in depth. A family bereavement kept brothers Diarmuid and Enda O’Connor out of their Munster semi-final win over Tipperary’s Drum and Inch.
They also had Jack Barry (one of three players out with Covid related issues) and captain Enda Doody (wedding) unavailable for their county final win over 2019 All-Ireland junior champions Beaufort.
Another ace Steelstown must nullify is corner forward Darragh Carmody who has tallied 3-30 (2-16 from play) in their five knock-out games.
The strength of the Kerry intermediate grade has been a talking point in the lead up to the game. Na Gaeil won all three group games against An Gaeltacht and Laune Rangers – both of who have reached an All-Ireland senior finals – while hammering Milltown-Castlemaine, who won the intermediate All-Ireland in 2012, while their quarter-finals opponents Castleisland have an All-Ireland senior title to their name.
Steelstown have adopted a ‘focus on ourselves’ approach to all their games to date, but they will need to at least break even in the crucial midfield sector to feed an attack that can give Na Gaeil plenty to ponder. The challenge awaits.