Hurling & Camogie

Maghera looking to avenge earlier defeat to Ballymena with Mageean Cup final spot at stake

Danske Bank Mageean Cup semi-final: St Louis', Ballymena v St Patrick’s, Maghera (today, Ahoghill, 2pm)

THESE two teams met in the first game in Group B of the Danske Bank Mageean Cup back in the middle of October and St Louis', Ballymena pulled away in the second half to win by 3-18 to 1-9. It will be a surprise if Maghera manage to overturn that result.

Indeed that game signalled the start of Maghera’s problems with captain Adam McLaughlin and centre-forward Niall Barton both picking up injuries after the teams had turned around level at the break. McLaughlin has returned to the team while Barton has since been joined on the long term injury list by goalie Tom Russell.

Russell’s replacement in nets, Connor Melaugh, had a good outing in the quarter final against St Mary’s, Belfast, although in fairness he had little to do. Maghera dominated the first part of that game, but struggled in the second, although their defence never allowed the Belfast side a shot on goal.

At the other end, Maghera got enough scores to see them over the line, but their shooting performance would not be enough against Ballymena.

St Louis won that opening game without the talented Jack McCloskey. The Loughgiel forward returned to score a goal and a point in a high-scoring draw with St Killian’s just before the Halloween break.

He certainly adds another scoring dimension to that already available in Ronan McCollum and Sean óg Blaney while Aodhán McGarry’s accuracy from frees can see Ballymena quickly pull away from opponents.

St Louis are also fairly solid in defence with the Patterson brothers, Piaras and Darragh, and Luke McFerran holding the centre line. Conal Bradley’s movement though could bring Piaras away from the edge of the square while Darragh will have his hands full chasing down Fionn McEldowney.

The dynamic Slaughtneil player is the key to Maghera’s chances. If he is curtailed, Maghera will really struggle. Even if McEldowney does cause problems for the Ballymena defence, his own defence is likely to struggle with McCloskey, McCollam and Blaney.

In a nutshell, a lot has to go right for Maghera to reach a second successive final.