Nowhere is a favourites tag more burdensome than in a semi-final and it is a burden that Gortletteragh and St. Patrick’s Dromahair have lived with throughout the Glenfarne Wood Products Intermediate Championship campaign, a campaign that sees them both one step away from the promised land of the final.
Yet both pre-competition favourites face searching examinations next Saturday in Ballinamore when Aughnasheelin provide the opposition for the north Leitrim men while last year’s beaten finalists renew hostilities with a Glenfarne/Kiltyclogher side that pushed them all the way to the limit in the group stages.
The two semi-finals make for intriguing and far from certain semi-finals, games that could go either way as Aughnasheelin and Glenfarne/Kiltyclogher aim to upset the odds as much as Gortletteragh and Dromahair seek to live up to them.
Below we take a brief look at both games:
Gortletteragh v Glenfarne/Kiltyclogher
The presumptive favourites ever since they were defeated in last year’s Intermediate Final by Melvin Gaels, Gortletteragh have a tremendous amount of pressure on them but have done a tremendous job in meeting and dealing with those expectations.
Much of what they are about is built on the same strengths as last year – Cathal McCrann’s leadership and free-taking in the middle of the field is a great platform, Ciaran Egan provides great solidity in defence and upfront, Darren Duignan’s pace results in either scores or frees for McCrann.
It is a simple approach but one incredibly difficult to counter but Gortletteragh found it hard to get the verdict against Glenfarne/Kiltyclogher and it took an injury time free to see off the challenge of the north Leitrim men as Gortletteragh had Conan Clarke to thank for making a few great saves.
What that game will serve to remind Gortletteragh of just how Glenfarne/Kilty will battle next Saturday as they produced a goal two minutes into added time to draw level before John Reynolds dramatic point sealed victory – but Gortletteragh will do well to remember just how hard they were pushed.
Glenfarne/Kiltyclogher have been one of the most consistent teams in the Intermediate Championship over the last number of years but have had the misfortune to seeing teams like Dromahair or Gortletteragh or Melvin Gaels stand in their way but they have a resilience and strength that means no-one should underestimate them.
Not a naturally high-scoring outfit, the north Leitrim men can still run up big totals if the likes of Michael Maguire, Enda Gallagher, Diarmuid Clancy and James Murray get a decent supply of ball. They certainly won’t fear the Gortletteragh men and in many ways, they have absolutely nothing to lose because Gortletteragh are such strong favourites.
That is not to say that they should play with abandon as Gortletteragh’s physical power could hurt them badly and the pace of Duignan and strength of Seamus Quinn will be difficult to counter.
If Gortletteragh get a run early on, they will be very hard stopped but if Glenfarne/Kiltyclogher can keep it tight and hit on the break, they will grow in confidence and will take some stopping. Yet one still gets the feeling that the overall strength in depth of Gortletteragh and Cathal McCrann’s accuracy from placed balls will carry the day.
Aughnasheelin v St. Patrick’s Dromahair
If Gortletteragh have been the number one favourites for the title, then St. Patrick’s Dromahair haven’t been far behind. Along with Glenfarne/Kiltyclogher, Dromahair are the only Division One team in the Intermediate grade and expectations have been high over the last few years, particularly with the talent in their line-up.
County players Paddy McGowan and Kevin Conlan are the stars but the like of Stephen Smyth, Christy McGowan, Conor Kelly and Camillus McMorrow are experienced players who have the wherewithal to lead any team to victory.
There is no denying the talent in Dromahair’s ranks but their greatest task may be in delivering on that talent. Against Eslin, they would appear to have all the aces but a nervousness seeped into the performance as they just held off the Conor Beirne led assault, a hard enough task in itself.
Dealing with the expectation and pressure is something Dromahair must overcome if they are to deliver on their promise and next Saturday will be a true test of their resolve for Aughnasheelin are a fantastic example of a team without great resources who can deliver great results.
Decimated by emigration over the years, Aughnasheelin have consistently defied the odds but in fairness, they possess a spine of talent equal to what many of the supposed powers in the grade can offer – Sean McWeeney, Gavin Sammon, Keith Boyle and former County star Barry McWeeney would grace any team.
No more than their neighbours Aughawillan, Aughnasheelin know how to make the best of their resources and in Gavin Sammon, they have a forward with the potential to unlock any defence, his speed and skill on the ball marking him out as a real talent, one perhaps worthy of a look from the County team.
Stopping his influence will be the greatest test for Dromahair but the power of Sean McWeeney will need watching too while Barry McWeeney and Wayne Gilgunn, far from old, are seasoned veterans at this stage and give Aughnasheelin a vital asset if the game is tight.
Tactics may play a part but in semi-finals, it often comes down to who displays the greater resolve and best grace under pressure. All things being equal, Dromahair would look to fit that bill but they will need to show confidence in their own ability to beat an Aughnasheelin team that just won’t quit. Dromahair to take it after a battle.