As Healy Park gets ready to host an Ulster GAA Club Championship Super Sunday, tomorrow afternoon, Ball-X has been scouring what’s on offer at the bookies!!!
Aww this is what November is all about!
Joy abounded, when the Ulster Council took the decision a week and a half ago to pair up the two Senior Club Football Championship semis, under the one billing. Just enough joy on offer to make you forget that you’ll be be condemned to sitting in Omagh for an hour and a half staring at a bumper as you try to make your way home. But hey ho, we can’t complain!
I’m aiming to be parked up, nose pointing home, of course, by midday. Travelling companion in tow, we will make to one of the town’s fine carvery establishment’s before making way by foot to Healy Park, dipping through the gate, hopefully just in time to see Scotstown and Eoghan Rua take the field.
The Monaghan Champions go into tomorrow’s curtain-raiser, heavy favourites to plot their way to a fifth Ulster Senior Final, at the expense of the North-Coast outfit. Having dispatched Derrygonnelly Harps in the provincial prelim in Clones, on the same day Coleraine celebrated capturing only their second Derry Senior Championship, Kieran Donnelly’s side had the formidable task of travelling to Newry to face a Burren side, riding the crest of a wave after breaking the Magpie stronghold in Mourne. It was here An Bhoth really impressed, not least their All-Star holding ‘keeper.
Rory Beggan has revolutionised the role. Tall, powerful and with the ability to clip a ball with a deft brutality, Beggan was the star-feature on show in Pairc Esler a fortnight ago. Registering two beautiful scores of his own, one from play, he also made a momentum shifting save when Ardan McAvoy found himself in the clear. It’s as simple as this. If Beggan is on form, Scotstown invariably end victorious. He’s rarely off-form.
Let’s not get too carried away, Coleraine are a great side – a cohesive unit, backboned by the McGoldrick household, and in Colm McGoldrick, they have a natural born goalscorer spearheading their attack. They also brought the Slaughtneil juggernaut to a halt, earlier this year, and thats no mean feat.
But, Scotstown have unfinished business in this competition. A five point defeat at the hands of Crossmaglen in the 2015 final, was followed by early exits to Kilcoo and Kilcar, in 2016 and 2017 respectively. The ominous nature with which they overcame Burren, in what was essentially an away fixture, against a giant of the Ulster game, impressed me.
Laced with talent throughout their squad – Beggan, McCarthy, Carey and the Hughes’ to name, but, the brightest of their shining stars – anything other than a victory for the Monaghan side would be a huge surprise, and a price of 4/9 with most major bookmakers is fair.
I expect it to be a high-scoring game. Both forward lines are packed with quality, and in the wide spaces of Healy Park, should be capable of doing damage. But, I think aspiration will win out on the day. Scotstown have been aiming for an Ulster title for five years, Coleraine haven’t been. It could be that hunger that makes the real difference.
Verdict: Scotstown to win (4/9, on offer with most bookies)
Value Bet: Scotstown to win, and both teams to score a goal (12/5, Ladbrokes)
And so to the coin flip.
Or is it?
The more I dwell on the Crossmaglen – Gaoth Dobhair tie, the more I become convinced that the Gaeltacht side will be making plans for an Ulster final. Trust me, it’s not an easy conclusion to come to, and, as any avid follower of Ball-X will attest, there has been few as impressed with Cross as myself this year.
They are a side rammed with quality footballers, armed with ability, intensity, and just about learning to win games with that famous Cross swagger. In Kernan, they have a born leader. Three All-Ireland Club-Championships teaches you a few things a long the way, and his experience will be key in marshalling the prodigious talent around him, not just tomorrow, or this season, but hopefully, for another few seasons to come.
My feeling is that Gaoth Dobhair are just marginally ahead of them in terms of, ironically, big game experience. For the minute.
Reigning Ulster Club Champions at Under-21 level, the Donegal side also have experience at either end of the pitch, in the shape of the McGee’s and Kevin Cassidy. Cassidy, in particular, looked ravenous against Cargin in the quarter-finals.
Add to that trio, a fit again Odhrán Mac Niallais at centre-field, and you begin to get some idea of the task Rangers have ahead of them tomorrow afternoon.
There’s no doubt about it. Kieran Gillespie’s horrible, season-ending injury in the opening few seconds in Corrigan Park, thirteen days ago, will have come as a major blow to Mervyn O’Donnell. But sometimes, an incident like that can help galvanise a squad.
They’ll have to be on top form of course, you can’t afford not to be with Oisín O’Neill roaming around your defensive third. But Cross were not fantastic against Coalisland, eventually playing themselves out of trouble in the final ten minutes of what was a dour game in the Athletic Grounds. It’s a venue which has become a second home for the Rangers over the years. They have played each of their last four championship games at the Armagh venue, and it’ll be interesting, too, to see how they adapt to the alien spaces of Omagh.
5/4 is just too tasty a price for the Donegal men, all things considered. I give them a reluctant vote.
Verdict: Gaoth Dobhair to win (5/4, on offer with most bookies)
Value Bet: Gaoth Dobhair -1 (15/8, Betfair & Paddy Power)