We’re down to the final two and it is hard to imagine the Fox Monumentals Intermediate Championship Final can generate the same excitement and drama we saw at last Sunday’s Semi-Finals in Ballinamore.
We take a look back at two fascinating semi-finals after Leitrim Gaels reached their first ever Intermediate Final by beating Drumkeerin and Aughnasheelin had nine points to spare over Carrigallen.
Check out our five talking points from the Connacht Gold Senior Championship Semi-Finals and keep an eye on www.leitrimobserver.ie for more updates and news ahead of the County Finals.
INTERMEDIATE GRADE STILL THE MOST EXCITING
We had two thrilling Senior Semi-Finals with plenty of talking points but when it came to excitement, it is hard to beat the action in Ballinamore last Sunday. Perhaps the smaller ground and the fans all on one side of the pitch adds to the atmosphere but Pairc Sheain Ui Eslin was hopping with excitement.
It helps too that the matches have been genuinely competitive and going into the two games in Ballinamore, there was real doubt over who would emerge victorious and anyone who saw Leitrim Gaels lose to Kiltubrid would have predicted they’d be contesting the Final.
Expect another big crowd out for the County Finals days and come early, you may just see the best match of the year!
TACTICALLY, LEITRIM GAELS OUT IN FRONT
People talk about the strength of Leitrim Gaels, their immense size and the breakaway pace they possess but few are noticing a tactical flexibility and innovation that is frankly unusual in the Leitrim Intermediate team.
The Gaels regularly switch up their midfield pairing depending on need at the time of the game while their defensive alignment means they almost always have two men covering the angles into the opposition’s most dangerous forwards. Teams get sucked into contact with the Gaels physically powerful players and then comes a break, at speed, that lands scores and frees. If that doesn’t work, a long angled ball to a towering full-forward does the trick.
Their system is far more than just dropping a player or two back, there is a lot of thought behind the Gaels system and it could just be the platform for success.
CONOR LEADS THE AUGHNASHEELIN YOUNG GUNS
The McWeeney brothers, Wayne Gilgunn, Gavin Sammon, Paddy McManus, the Earley brothers and Martin McHugh form the experienced backbone of Aughnasheelin’s challenge but it is the young guns who are setting the tone and leading the way, none more so that County star Conor Cullen.
The young midfielder is not yet fully developed but his huge physical power, great engine and speed is the bedrock of the Aughnasheelin challenge. But again, it is not just Cullen - Fintan Fitzpatrick has been a revelation all year upfront but Niall Mulvanerty shone in the semi-final win.
Philip Dolan is a maturing addition with young legs and their arrival has completely rejuvenated an aging Aughnasheelin. It gets better, however, as coming into the Senior ranks next year will be the impressive duo Aaron Hoare and Ciaran Cullen, a huge boost to a small club.
CARRIGALLEN MUST WONDER WHAT HAPPENED?
Defeat brings disappointment to any team but there is added mystification for Carrigallen who still must wonder what happened in the first half last Sunday in Ballinamore as Aughnasheelin ran riot, their 1-9 to 0-3 halftime lead somewhat smaller than their dominance warranted.
We saw a more accurate reflection of what Carrigallen are about in the second half as the introduction of long serving Andrew McManus seemed to spark his team back into some life. Unfortunately, it came far too late as Aughnasheelin were simply too far ahead but it leaves Carrigallen with the cruel regret of what might have been.
ANOTHER HEARTBREAK FOR DRUMKEERIN
Low on numbers but definitely not low on resilience! Or loyalty! Or a sheer-bloody minded refusal to give up! By all rights, Drumkeerin have no rights to be as competitive as they are, year after year and it often seems as if the path to the Intermediate title goes through the north Leitrim men.
Again this year, they have battled injuries, a tough start to the campaign and again, they took a fancied team to the limit, testing Leitrim Gaels’ resolve and character in the best possible way.
Unfortunately, defeat was against Drumkeerin’s lot and after losing finals over the last ten years to Aughnasheelin, Aughawillan and Ballinamore Sean O’Heslin’s along with countless semi-final exits, one wonders if this group of committed Drumkeerin players will ever have their day in the sun.