Hurling and camogie

Mallon makes Portaferry hard to stop in Ulster intermediate showdown with Eglish

Portaferry celebrate after winning their first Down senior title following their win over Liatroim in November's final

2021 Ulster Intermediate club championship final: Portaferry (Down) v Eglish (Tyrone) (today, Tullylish, 1pm)

EGLISH may well become the team with the shortest reign as Ulster Intermediate champions because they only dethroned Clonduff to take the 2020 title at the start of December.

While it ended up a comfortable enough win for the Tyrone side who took their fourth title in six seasons, their wings were well and truly clipped by St Ryanagh’s in the All-Ireland semi-final. Perhaps it soothed them a little that the Offaly side went on to win the national title.

However, it is never easy to come back from a deflating experience like that.

Opponents Portaferry are entering the game from a completely different angle having won their first ever Down title in mid-November with an 0-8 to 0-7 win over Liatroim Fontenoys, after taking out the big guns, Clonduff and Ballygalget, in the previous two games.

Niamh Mallon scored all eight points in the final and was a prolific scorer right through the season with club and county. She has been nominated for an Allstar – and should collect one too!

For years she has been the leading forward in the county, but it was only during this summer and autumn that the club has managed to build a successful team around her.

Those building blocks are the current defence. In their championship games Portaferry packed the defence and choked any scoring opportunities for their opponents.

Mallon is given a roving commission and teams have chosen to foul her rather than let her inside. However, that has not been very successful as anything from 65 metres in is within Mallon’s free-taking range.

Eglish are not a bad team, they are well used to games at this level and beyond and have a broader scoring platform than prolific Armagh forward Ciara Donnelly. Her sister Leanne and younger players like Reagan Fay and Kaitlin Gallagher can pick off a score or two every game.

This should be an intriguing battle.

The Clonduff challenge Eglish faced was fairly straightforward and they prevailed. It will be a lot harder to play against Portaferry’s defensive formation, while at the same time maintaining the discipline of marking Mallon.

If they manage to handle either, they will be in with a good chance of retaining the Cup.

However if Mallon gets going with a run of points, Portaferry will be hard to stop.

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Hurling and camogie