GAA Smith Monumentals Intermediate Championship Semi-Final preview

Learning lessons from the first game will be key to decide victor of Gortletteragh and Dromahair semi-final

John Connolly

Reporter:

John Connolly

Email:

sport@leitrimobserver.ie

Learning lessons from the first game will be key to decide victor of Gortletteragh and Dromahair semi-final

Francie Flynn grabs a goal for Gortletteragh against Dromahair in the first round clash Picture: Declan Gaffney

Managers love to talk about their teams learning from their mistakes so that makes Sunday's Intermediate Semi-Final clash between Gortletteragh and St Patrick's Dromahair one of the hardest games this weekend to call.

These two teams met in the very first game of the competition and suffice to say a lot has changed since then. Dromahair lost that day but their form since Gortletteragh's victory has been nothing short of spectacular as they reeled off four victories on the trot.

Gortletteragh too laid waste to the group, winning all their games until the final round against Annaduff where they let a winning position slip. But their response against Aughnasheelin in the quarter-finals was devastating and impressive as they romped to an easy victory.

But looking back at that first outing, eight weeks ago by the time the ball is thrown -in next Sunday, both teams can look back at Gortletteragh's 2-11 to 2-9 victory and think: Hey, we're going to win this one!

The headline we used for this game was “A tale of two halves as Gortletteragh win” recounting how a brilliant home side led by 12 points after just 27 minutes, goals coming from Jack Heslin and a Padraig Gallagher penalty as they tormented the north Leitrim men.

But Dromahair showed that the struggles of last year were not to be repeated as they fought their way back into the game with a Darragh McMorrow goal just before halftime.

They then pinned the home team back for most of the second half but couldn't manage a speedy enough rate of scores to trouble Gortletteragh, Gary Fowley's goal coming in injury time.

Gortletteragh were relieved to have hung on, Dromahair frustrated they didn't get going sooner so both teams will attack this game in a confident frame of mind.

Both teams are returning similar tallies with Gortletteragh averaging 19.4 points a game to 18 per game for Dromahair while Dromahair's concession rate of 12.8 is higher than the 12.2 conceded by their rivals.

In terms of goals, Gortletteragh have hit the net nine times compared to eight for Dromahair but the north Leitrim did goal in every game, Gortletteragh failed to score in two matches while both conceded five goals.

As a point of interest, their outings against the other two semi-finalists from the group is quite interesting: Gortletteragh needed a couple of late goals to give them a somewhat flattering eight point win over Carrigallen while Dromahair had just the point to spare against the same opposition.

Against Annaduff, Dromahair scored their biggest win of the group stages with a 2-14 to 0-10 victory over Karl Foley's team but the men in maroon then came from behind to defeat Gortletteragh.

Dromahair, however, have come out on the right side of two of their three close games while Gortletteragh lost to Annaduff. How much do you read into that is hard to know as Gortletteragh were already qualified and not in need of the points.

So far, so similar and that even extends to goal threat. Up until the quarter-finals, Gary Fowley was managing a goal a game and he formed a dangerous trio with Cian Clinton and Martin Feeney but Gortletteragh boast their own deadly trio with former county star Jack Heslin, Francie Flynn and Padraig Gallagher.

Predicting a winner here is a fool's errand - Gortletteragh started out among the favourites, they have a lot of players with county and senior championship experience but Dromahair really look like a team who are getting better with every outing, starting with that comeback against Gortletteragh the very first day.

Does that give them an edge or does it put pressure on them? How much of a difference will the neutral venue make this time out? Who has the greater momentum?

It's likely this game will turn on a piece of magic or a mistake. Dromahair certainly have a momentum building around them and you get the feeling that if the game is close, they will believe they can get the job done. But if they allow Gortletteragh to build up the sort of leads they have done so far in this competition, it will be a repeat result from the very first round next weekend.