Semi-final weekend for the Senior, Intermediate and Junior grades, while St Paul’s take on Moneyglass in the ladies’ senior football final
THE first piece of silverware in the Antrim Hurling Championships will be handed out on Saturday when Ardoyne and Loch Mór Dál gCais meet in the Junior B final at Musgrave Park (2pm).

This competition has gone to form with both teams going unbeaten as they both accounted for the challenges of Belfast Saints and Loughbeg Harps in the group phase, while playing out a 2-14 to 2-14 draw when they first met.

They both came through in the semi-final with Ardoyne’s eye for goal, and Matt McKillen’s in particular, seeing them romp to an 8-18 to 0-11 win over Loughbeg.

Loch Mór had it tighter against Belfast Saints, emerging 2-14 to 0-17 victors to book their place in the final that could be another tight affair if past evidence is taken into account.

At the outset, Ardoyne would have been most people’s pick to come through considering they won Division Four with a 100 per cent record and indeed, are yet to taste defeat in League or Championship in 2023.

Last year, they came up short in the Junior B final against St Brigid’s and appear to have been motivated by not just that loss, but the progress made and have carried it forward.

The league meetings between the sides both went the way of Ardoyne and they were on course for a third win over the Loughshore men in the Championship before Bailey Graham struck for a late goal.

Forewarned is forearmed and the North Belfast men will know this is not simply a case of showing up to claim the honours, so should they perform as they have done all year, then victory and the league and championship double can be secured.
West Belfast duo in JHC action
Also Saturday (1.30pm), the Casement Social Club Junior Championship semi-finals take place with two teams from the west of the city heading to North Antrim.

At Armoy, Gort na Móna will hope to build on their thrilling extra-time win over Rasharkin a fortnight back in the quarter-final when they face the hosts who went the direct route into the last four thanks to their first-place finish in Group One.

Glen Rovers accounted for Davitt’s, Rasharkin and Lámh Dhearg along the way with former county hurler John Dillon central.

But Gort na Móna have shown plenty themselves and aside from a disappointing second half in their opener against Cloughmills, have won each game since with Dessie McClean in flying form, while Patrick McCaffrey also had a huge game in their last outing.

Armoy do have the home advantage, but Gort na Móna will not be daunted and feel this is a game they can win should they deliver a performance.

At the same time in Cloughmills, Lámh Dhearg take on the Biddies who were the other team straight through to the semis.

The Red Hands were edged out by Armoy in their final group game, meaning they were left to face Ballymena in a quarter-final and that was a game in which Michael Herron came into his own to help the Hannahstown men overturn a half-time deficit.

Herron cracked in four goals in a 6-16 to 0-13 win with Adam Murray netting a brace and goals may be required against a St Brigid’s side that has looked in good form in the competition with a trio of wins against Gort na Móna, All Saints and the other St Brigid’s from South Belfast.
Sarsfield’s face Tír na nÓg in IHC
It’s also semi-final weekend in the Andersonstown Social Club Intermediate Championship with the first of the last four clashes taking place at Dunsilly on Friday evening (7.30pm) where Sarsfield’s take on Tír na nÓg.

The Paddies topped Group Two as a late penalty goal from Kevin McKernan saw them edge Glenariffe in their final group game when defeat would have seen them exit the competition.

It summed up a fascinating series of games up to that point with so much at stake on the final day, but the West Belfast side came through and with the McKernan clan and Niall McKenna leading the way, they now find themselves on the brink of a place in the final.

To get there they will need to get the measure of the Randalstown men who have been waiting in the wings as they had a bye in the final round of fixtures, but already knew they were through.

Their second-place finish in Group One came down to head-to-head with Cushendun having beaten them earlier in the competition, the Emmett’s - who face Creggan in the other semi-final at Glenravel on Saturday (1.30pmpm) - needing a result in their final game against Carey to advance, which they duly did despite having to hang on a little.

Tír na nÓg have been in good form aside from that loss and they will look to Sean Duffin, who inspired a dramatic comeback in their last outing against St Gall’s to get through to the last four, plus Eamonn Og McAllister and Darragh Fagan on Friday.

However, with a number of county hurlers in their ranks, Sarsfield’s will believe they have the tools to make it through.

Meanwhile, Sunday will see the final of the Antrim Ladies Senior Football Championship with the familiar pairing of Moneyglass and St Paul’s meeting at Davitt Park (4pm).

In recent seasons, the St Ergnat’s club has dominated the Shaw’s Road outfit who had been standard bearers for many years and a 4-15 to 0-9 win over St Paul’s in the group phase suggests they can remain there.

Both teams are laden with county stars and a high-quality final is anticipated.