Derry and Cavan camogs go in search of final honours
The Elk Complex Derry Senior Championship Final: Saturday September 26: 4.30pm in Bellaghy :Slaughtneil v Swatragh
WHEN Slaughtneil began their current unbeaten run in the Derry senior camogie championship in 2015, they had to battle hard to defeat Swatragh in the county final.
Seven of that winning Slaughtneil side five years ago started last Friday evening's semi-final against Ballinascreen and now go in search of a sixth successive medal tomorrow (SATURDAY) afternoon in Bellaghy.
Ballinascreen have shared the finals' stage with Slaughtneil on three occasions and Swatragh will appear for the third time today. Each of them are getting closer to the champions but neither have beaten them.
On Friday the ‘Screen set up well to counteract Slaughtneil's strengths and confined the champions to just three scores from open play – but they still lost by six points and never really looked in a position to win the game.
The ‘Screen cut off the surging runs of Shannon Graham that have been a key to Slaughtneil's success story and it helped that Tina Bradley only made a cameo performance for the last quarter.
The free-taking of Louise Dougan accounted for most of the winner's scores; you simply cannot foul inside your own half without being punished. She also shores up the defence as one of the best sweepers around – and it is a compact defence that allows Aoife Ní Chaiside or Gráinne Ní Chatháin to burst forward to join the attack.
There looks to be more scoring potential in the Swatragh attack than Ballinscreen had and Dara McGuckin was in great form as her team pulled away from Lavey in the second half of their semi-final to record a 5-14 to 2-7 win also on Friday evening.
You also have the McNicholl sisters up there, although both of them have carried injuries through this truncated season, and they could struggle with the pace of the champions' defenders.
Shannon Kearney had a powerful game as a free player in the Swatragh defence last week and it will be interesting to see if she can exercise the same influence against Slaughtneil.
When it comes down to taking on probably the best ever club team to come out of Ulster, you need a good game plan, the discipline not to foul within your won half and probably a decent slice of luck at both ends of the pitch.
It is true that Slaughtneil do not carry the same scoring threat as in previous years, especially if Tina Bradley does not play – or if she does and is not at full throttle. But their experience, game management and ability to edge home in tight finishes make them a formidable force.
They should retain the title.
There are three other finals over the weekend in Derry.
Last year's beaten Intermediate finalists Kilrea had a scare in the semi-final, but they can beat a Glen side that surprised a few by beating Eoghan Rua while Ballerin are giving the Junior another shot and Glenullin are slight favourites to beat Lavey in the Intermediate Shield final.
Intermediate Shield Final
Saturday 2pm in Glen : Glenullin v Lavey
Sunday 27th September
Junior Championship Final
1pm in Swatragh : Ballerin v Magherafelt
Intermediate Cup Final
3pm in Banagher : Kilrea v Glen
Cavan Senior Championship Final: Saturday September 26: 12noon in Drumalee :Crosserlough v Denn
CROSSERLOUGH'S hunt for a fifth successive Cavan senior camogie title reaches a climax at high noon tomorrow's (SATURDAY) in Drumalee with Denn the opposition.
Crosserlough of course went on to collect Ulster Junior club titles in 2017 and 2018 under now Cavan county manager Jimmy Greville, beating Antrim opposition in both finals. Loughgiel however got their revenge this time last year with a narrow victory to halt their run.
But still there was unexpected provincial success for the Breffni county last year with Denn coming from nowhere to dethrone Clontibret in the Ulster Junior B club final and then go on to reach the All-Ireland decider.
Their star continues to rise with an unexpected 3-11 to 0-5 win over a fancied Laragh side in last weekend's senior semi-final.
Not surprisingly the Fitzsimons sisters continue to dominate the scoring returns, particularly Shanise, a student in Athlone IT, and 17 year old Hannah who was an Ulster Schools' All-star this time last year. And then there is Rebecca, who normally features at full-back and on occasions made forays into enemy territory to snatch key scores.
Denn ran Crosserlough close in a league encounter a couple of months ago, but there was a wider gap, 1-11 to 0-8, when the pair met in the championship round robin series earlier in September.
Most of the back to back Ulster winning sides are still playing – but with a new manager in Down's Joe Baldwin.
Ciara Finnegan continues to dominate from centre-half back with Erin Galligan on her wing and Orla Smith and Sinéad McKenna putting the pressure on up front. But younger players like defender Katlyn McConnell have begun to emerge as key players as well.
Crosserlough should win, but Denn will push hard for a first ever title.
Cavan Junior Championship Final
Friday 7pm: Crosserlough v Drumgoon