Door is open for new champion in Down Camogie Championship after Clonduff exit
THREE clubs from the lower end of the Ards' peninsula are left in the Down championship and that is where the semi-final action will be tomorrow afternoon as Ballygalget take on Portaferry (12.30pm in Ballycran) and Ballycran meet Liatroim Fontenoys (3.30pm in Portaferry)
Of the four teams left, Portaferry are the only one never to have collected the county crown – but they slew the giant a fortnight ago and that is the reason all four fancy their title chances this year.
Yes, Portaferry's 1-15 to 0-7 win over Clonduff ended a four-year run of title wins for the Shamrocks that also included provincial and All-Ireland success.
The Ports of course have been in several recent finals, in fact four in the last seven years, but they have always come up short despite the presence of the excellent Niamh Mallon in their ranks.
Mallon has been the top forward in Ulster for almost a decade now, but club teams in Down have been able to double-mark her to close her out.
Parish rivals Ballygalget have been ear-marked as the up and coming side in the county for the last few seasons now, but Clonduff has ended their last four championship dreams.
With Clonduff taken out of the equation, they must fancy their chances particularly given the all-round strength in the team.
The action moves down to Portaferry for the second semi-final and a shoot-out between Ballycran and Liatroim Fontenoys, both of whom feature several players who collected provincial club medals eight or nine years ago.
Ballycran topped the qualification group that included Clonduff, so they will probably be slight favourites to reach the final for the first time since 2013 when Liatroim beat them.
They overly depend on veteran Catherine McGourty for scores however. But boy, does the current county goalie deliver? Last day out, Ballycran needed to beat Castlewellan by a big score to secure passage into the semi-finals and McGourty hit 6-3. She was well supported by younger sister Bríd and Naoise McCullagh.
Another veteran from the Down side, Karen McMullan, will probably pick up Catherine McGourty and use her experience to close out opportunities for scores from open play. The question then will be whether or not the rest of the Ballycran team can step up to the mark.
Liatroim themselves have not exactly been prolific scorers in recent years but the move of defender Dearbhla Magee to midfield allows her to push forward to support Aimee McAleenan and the rest of the attack.
If Ballygalget and Liatroim are successful in cutting out the main scoring threat from their opponents, that is the likely final pairing.