Ulster U21 Championship – Paddy McLarnon Cup
CARR AND GORMLEY TO DO BATTLE ONCE AGAIN
It’s 1991 and a wet Sunday in the Athletic Grounds. Down trail Derry by a point and Michael Greenan awards the Mourne men a free outside the forty five metre line. Time is almost up. Up steps Ross Carr with total confidence and swings his left foot to force a replay. Derry’s Enda Gormley could only watch as another chapter in the 1990s Derry/Down rivalry unfolded.
Both Carr and Gormley are similar. Played in the same era, both left footed, with a common steely focus during their playing days. Ice cool under pressure many times when their teams needed them most demonstrating nerves of steel. The life of a place kicker is different. The match winner or the villain – it’s all fine margins. That’s why they are different. Their preparation is different – a bag of balls and endless hours of practice. All for occasions like that Sunday in Armagh when Carr swung his ‘ciotóg’ to earn his side a replay putting Down on the march towards Sam.
This Saturday in Creggan Carr and Gormley will be in opposite dugouts. Legends in both counties but many of their young charges wouldn’t have been born when their managers were in they heyday. A few clicks and probing of YouTube will give them some idea of what has went before them. DVD’s were not even in use back then but Carr and Gormley’s unshakable focus is currently been handed down to the new breed.
There is no need to go into Glen’s achievements again. They are holders of the Paddy McLarnon Cup and will be heavily fancied to go all the way this year. After seeing off the brave challenge of their eternal rivals and challengers Slaughtneil in the first round, the Derry championship just took care of itself. After a speed wobble early on in the county final – they swatted Loup to one side.
Gormley and his assistant Seamus Doyle will have to put their thinking caps on in terms of team selection. The Derry championship was 13-a-side but Ulster is the traditional ‘fifteen man’ game.
Tiernan Flannigan has been used in all the games and the goal poacher is a likely starter in attack. Ryan Dougan missed the win over Loup and if he recovers from injury is likely to be named at midfield alongside Conor Glass, otherwise Cahair McCabe could get the nod. Glass himself is just back from another two week spell with Hawthorn FC ahead of his move down under this summer. When the chips were down against Slaughtneil it was Glass that delivered.
Glen will look to Oisin Hegarty to perform the man marking duties in defence with Conor Carville holding the centre and Cathal Mulholland attacking on the wing. Their defence will need to be disciplined in the tackle as Liam McGreevy will punish them from frees.
If McFaul, Glass and Dougan can win the midfield contest then Tiernan Flannigan, Paul Gunning and Conor Convery will often be the target with Danny Tallon likely to be pulling the strings in the half forward line but Glen have so many options that anything is possible for them. Jack Doherty provides plenty of running power to their team and is currently training with the Derry senior squad.
Clonduff delivered a first Down U21 title in ten years with a win over Mayobridge (3-10 to 0-11) and it didn’t come handy for them. Trailing 0-6 to 0-1 early on and were struggling to cope with the swirling breeze but this is something they will need to prepare for this Saturday. Creggan is a fantastic pitch but it is exposed to the loughshore elements.
Clonduff pegged the ‘Bridge back to 0-6 to 0-4 by half time but the introduction of substitute Conor Murray was vital. He bagged two goals and I’m sure Enda Gormley will be keeping an eye out where he lines out at this Saturday.
Glen will be favourites this weekend but Gormley will be hoping his old adversary Carr and former Down player Shane Ward won’t have something up their sleeves and have the last laugh once again.
Glen Squad: Callum Mullan-Young, Ciaran McCloy, Oisin Hegarty, Conor McDevitt, Conor Gallagher, Ryan McDonnell, Conor Glass, Connor Carville, Cathal Mulholland, Ciaran McFaul, Jack Doherty, Conor Convery, Danny Tallon, Paul Gunning, Tiarnan Flanagan, Conall Darragh, Declan McCusker, Shay Gormley, Aidan Hughes, Cathal Gallagher, Stevie O’Hara, Ryan Dougan, Cahair McCabe.
Clonduff Squad: Conor Brown (capt), Mark Bradley, Declan Gribben, Eamon Grant, Lorcan Branagan, Brendan Britton, Conal Brown, Rory McQuaid, Jayme Curran, John Brown, Conor Lowry, David Quinn, Patrick O’Hagan, Rían Branagan, Danny Burns, Liam McGreevy, Conor Murray, Stephen McConville, Thomas Murnin, Shaun Murnin, Niall O’Hare, Niall O’Hagan, Noel Grant, Mark Devlin, Pearse Murnin, Darren Harper, Charlie Carr, Patrick Gribben, Kevin Smith.