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Busy weekend in the Antrim Senior Football Championship

Conor Murray’s return from injury is a huge boost to Lámh Dhearg going into this year’s Senior Football Championship Conor Murray’s return from injury is a huge boost to Lámh Dhearg going into this year’s Senior Football Championship
By David Mohan

THE Antrim Senior Football Championship fully clicks into gear this weekend with four Round One ties down for decision over two days.

The action begins today (Saturday) at Corrigan Park with a double-header in the SFC and while Lámh Dhearg may be favourites to progress at the expense of Ahoghill (throw-in 5pm), Terry Óg McCrudden is experienced enough to know they can’t afford to take anything for granted.

“Ahoghill have been an established Division One team for the last 10 years,” said McCrudden.

“We played them earlier in the year up in Ahoghill and it wasn’t an easy game.

“You can’t take any team for granted in the Championship, especially when you are coming up against another Division One team.

“We will be wary of a backlash; they’ve got a lot of dual players and they pride themselves on doing well.”

Following this tie at 7pm, St Teresa’s will be aiming to put their disappointment of relegation fro Division One behind them then they face an Aghagallon side that defeated Naomh Éanna in the preliminary round last week.

The West Belfast side has endured a difficult campaign and many will expect the South West club to be a bridge too far, but team captain Paul McGoldrick is hopeful his teammates can spring a surprise.

“We’ve played them twice and they’ve beaten us twice, but any time we’ve played them in the Championship it has been tight enough,” said McGoldrick.

“We played them two years ago and they beat us by a point. I think it will come down to a few small margins at the weekend.

“From our last seven games in the Senior Championship, we’ve won three. To me, that’s not too bad. Other teams go years playing in the Senior Championship without winning a game.

“It shows that we are able to win games in the Senior Championship and there is no reason why we couldn’t go out and win against Aghagallon.

“The league was finished for us a long while ago and our focus has to be on the Championship. We’ve got a few players back so we’ll give it our all.”

Tomorrow’s games
Local bragging rights will be at stake when Gort na Móna and O’Donovan Rossa meet at Hannahstown on Sunday afternoon (throw-in 4pm).

Both teams have enjoyed a successful season in their own right already with the Gorts comfortably retaining their Division One status in the league, while Rossa bounced back from relegation last year to claim the Division Two title and a place back in the top flight.

This is a game that many believe could go either way and it is an intriguing battle for both to establish just where they are.

“When the draw came out, I’m sure Rossa were happy and we were happy,” said Gort na Móna manager, Sean McKenna.

“They have been going well in Division Two and they’re a smashing side. They’ve been playing Senior Championship now for the past 10 years.

“The fact it’s at Hannahstown – God knows what the conditions will be like so it is a wide-open game.”

While they claimed the Division Two title and promotion last week with a win over Moneyglass, Rossa will find Gort na Móna a different challenge to anything they have encountered so far this year.

Their manager, Sean Fleming complimented Sunday’s opposition for how they have performed at a higher level this year and knows his side will not get anything easy, but is hopeful they can go and express themselves to see where that takes them.

“I know Sean McKenna very well and Gort na Móna deserve every congratulations for staying up because we know it’s not easy to do that, but they did it in style,” he said.

“We will start thinking about them now and I’m sure they will be doing the same with us, but we have achieved our objective this year and whatever comes after it is a bonus now.”

At Creggan tomorrow (Sunday, throw-in 3.30pm) St Brigid’s take on Portglenone.

The South Belfast side retained their Division One status with a win at St Teresa’s on Monday and manager Eunan Conway says that has been their sole focus.

They will be missing a number of regulars for the game, so they will travel to the shore of Lough Neagh more in hope than expectation.

“Portglenone can call on a host of players with county experience and their age-profile is such that they have a number of players with Senior Championship experience,” said Conway.

“They are a mighty side and anybody looking at it from a neutral viewpoint would make Portglenone firm favourites.

“It is a huge task for us, but we’ve nothing to lose in this regard. There’s no pressure on us and there’s little expectation on the players.”

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