Clonduff looking strong as they continue quest to regain Down title from Portaferry
Down Senior Championship Semi-finals: (Sunday, Drumaness, 12.15pm): Clonduff v Ballygalget; Liatroim v Portaferry (Sunday, Castlewellan, 12.30pm)
IT has been four weeks since Clonduff’s final group game in the Down championship, but I doubt that they will have dropped much from the level that had them installed as favourites to win back their crown and take a fifth title in six seasons.
They looked rudderless last season without key players Paula O’Hagan, Fionnuala Carr and Sara Louise Graffin. With all three now back in action they looked formidable in each of their group games, despite Liatroim Fontenoys putting it up to them in the opening round.
That was when it became apparent that the younger players, the Fitzpatricks, the McGilligans, Clara Cowan, Orlaith McCusker and Isabella O’Hare had all progressed from their last outright victory in 2020.
Ballygalget faced their big game of the group stages a fortnight ago and were all at sea against their neighbours Portaferry particularly during the first half. They improved a good bit after the break, but were never in with a chance of winning the game.
Clonduff are as strong an opponent as the championship holders could have faced and the Ards team cannot allow them to get control of the game at the start. If Clonduff get ahead at the break, they will easily control the rest of the game.
The semi-final in Castlewellan is a repeat of last year’s final, a game that Portaferry controlled, yet didn’t win until about 10 minutes from the end when Niamh Mallon got a point to edge them ahead.
That final was low-scoring, but Portaferry’s defence was very difficult to break down. This year there are two or three changes to that defence and, under new management, they are not setting up with a sweeper. It has worked so far, albeit that they have conceded more scores per match than a year ago.
Although Liatroim tested Clonduff in their first game, they had a big gap until they played Ballycran a fortnight ago. The Fontenoys were less than impressive in the opening half of that game. Although they moved up a gear to control the second half and scored well against Ballyholland last weekend, they need to play at a much higher tempo if they are to trouble Portaferry.
Dearbhla Magee seems to have a more offensive role, although she does tend to drop back to support midfield. One feels that she would need to equal Niamh Mallon’s scoring feats at the other end if the Fontenoys are to progress.
The odds are stacked against Ballycran and Liatroim; it should be a Clonduff v Portaferry final.
There are also senior shield semi-finals down for decision with Ballycran and Ballyholland a possible pairing.
Meanwhile the Down Intermediate championship is also at the semi-final stage with games in Kilclief and Aghaderg.
Down Senior Shield semi-finals
(Ballygalget, 11am): Ballycran v Bredagh
(Mayobridge, 1.30pm): Mayobridge v Ballyholland
Down Intermediate Championship
(Kilclief, 3pm): Kilclief v Atticall
(Aghaderg, 3pm): Aghaderg v Kilcoo