Thursday, 22 December 2011

GAA coaching App

The first ever GAA coaching App is going to be an APPsolute necessity!

This exciting new App has being developed by Elevate Sports Solutions Limited a young and innovative company based in Maghera, Co. Derry. The App was launched this week on Apple’s App store.

The App is available free in Lite version, which contains four coaching drills and will give the user a feel for the ease of use style and functionality of the App and allow them to consider upgrading. The full version App is priced at a very reasonable £14.99 (that is 29p per drill!), which allows the user to access 52 coaching drills, select individual drills and include them into their own training session. The coach will be able to include as many drills as desired, organise the timing and length of each drill allowing the coach to know exactly how long each drill and the entire session will take.

It looks like the developers of ESS invested a great deal of time in designing these resources and GAA coaches/managers should get great use from them on the training field. On speaking with ESS director Donal Leahy, we spoke about why they created these coaching resources.

We at Elevate Sports Solutions Ltd aim to provide innovative and useful coaching aids to coaches at all levels and we hope our first offering can go some way towards helping them conduct interesting and efficient training sessions’.

The other coaching resource that ESS are releasing is the ESS coaching cards which have the same 52 coaching drills that are on the App and are aimed at catering for GAA coaches/managers who do not use smartphones.
These cards are a quality made card, with clear PVC coating for extra durability and water resistant.

The ESS coaching cards are available to purchase directly from ESS’s website ( and the App is available on the App store and will soon be available on the Android market. Please click on the image to go to the App store.

For more information on Elevate Sports Solutions Limited please contact Donal Leahy at


Here is some further information on the App/Cards

The Elevate Gaelic Football Coaching App aims to provide coaches with colour-coded drills and games that are laid out in a fast, easy-to-understand format.

The application allows the user to:

·         Access drills and games from specific coaching categories (Passing, Attacking, Defending and Skills)
·         Create and manage training sessions
·         Search for specific drills within the application
·         Access Elevate Sports Solutions website


Each drill includes:

·         Drill Illustration
The drill diagram illustrates how to set up the drill. The arrows indicate the actions that the players must complete to successfully complete the drill.

·         How to do the drill
The information required to do the drill or play the game. Information relating to the drill set up, sequences, rules, time and number of players are also included.

·         What coaching points to reinforce
The main coaching points required to effectively perform each drill or game

·         If the coach wants to change it
If the coach wants to change the drill, the App suggests ways of doing so. Making it harder or easier depending on age or ability levels of participants.

·         Equipment needed to perform the drill
The equipment legend tells you exactly how many cones are required, the minimum number of footballs, the amount of players required to effectively carry out drill or game and other specialist equipment when needed e.g. poles or tackle bags.


The Training Session section will allow users to:
·         Create and add drills to specific training sessions.
·         Save as many training sessions as you want.
·         Delete and re-order each individual drill.
·         Include reps for each drill as well as the duration of each rep.
·         Calculate the total time of each session.


Users will be able to search for specific coaching cards by entering a keyword into the ‘search for a drill’ section.

Tabata Training

In recent weeks I noticed a few people on Twitter (mostly @adolfcoors) talking about tabata training and the benefits of it. 

It is essentially interval training, but has a certain breakdown. It was reserached by Izumi Tabata  (pictured right) in Japan.  There is loads of information on the net about it.

The concept is based on 20second bursts of all out effort, followed by 10seconds of rest.  This is repeated 8 times for a 4 minute routine.

The 20 second bursts should be at max effort.  If it is cycling, your 20 seconds should be your best impression of Mark Cavenish heading for the line in Paris.  The 10 seconds of rest seems like just a blink.

It is an intense workout and if you are beginning a new year fitness drive, I would advise you to work your way gradually up towards this level of intensiy.  Once you are there, it will be your new secret to fitness for 2012.  No more excuses of not having time to train!

The routine can be done with various different exercises, front squats, burpees, rowing, cycling.  The list is endless, as it is all about the intensity during those 20seconds. 

Two tabatas can be coupled together, with a 1 minute interval for a quick intense workout. 

For more variation, you could probably mix it up, 2mins of burpees followed by 2 mins on the punchbag.

So looking for something different for my next fitness programme, I decided to give it a go and have being doing it on a regular basis.  The other evening in the gym after my usual routine, I did a box jumps tabata, which left me totally exhausted. 

Also a few mornings each week before work, I do a tabata on the rower, followed by one on the spin bike. A great way to start the day.  It is a great fat burner and the limited time it takes is a huge advantage.  @jcmcloskey who trains with me, says it raises the metabolism for 31hours after one of the sessions, interesting point.

@emcnprofitness has suggested the following one for me to tackle next.  It will be a good way of burning off the turkey and the festive cheer. It has a slight variation, in that it is done by reps and not time. But as long as the rest times (10secs) are consisent and you are giving max intensity, it should do the trick.

35-40kg on the bar - FRONT Squat as close to floor as possible - No Half Squats
  • Set 1 - 9 Reps - 10 Sec Rest
  • Set 2 - 8 Reps - 10 Sec Rest
  • Set 3 - 8 Reps - 10 Sec Rest
  • Set 4 - 7 Reps - 10 Sec Rest
  • Set 5 - 7 Reps - 10 Sec Rest
  • Set 6 - 7 Reps - 10 Sec Rest
  • Set 7 - 7 Reps - 10 Sec Rest
  • Set 8 - 7 Reps - 10 Sec Rest
He also to me to keep a zimmer frame handy when its over!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Intro to Strength & Conditioning from EMCN Pro Fitness

Strength and Conditioning is undoubtedly one of the main areas that many athletes strive to improve during the season to gain that extra advantage on the playing field. However a big mistake that the majority seem to make is concentrating on bodybuilding style training which concentrate on a single joint, single muscle group exercise.
Some of these exercises have their time and place for building ...muscle size in the gym but in terms of improving athletic performance can prove detrimental for athletic development and flexibility. In combining a proper S&C program along with the appropriate Nutrition results can be immense.

Whether an athlete improving performance for sport or someone looking to tone up/lose weight, Nutrition is the key to kick-starting health before trying to get results. Getting the right foods on board at the right time can manipulate the body’s hormone levels and produce an advantageous anabolic state(increase muscle size and mass) or debilitating catabolic state(breaking down of muscle).

In the next few weeks I will be talking about some important exercises for power and athletic development as well as nutrition tips for performance and weight loss.

A key point to remember for any athlete looking to improve their level of performance – Get Healthy – Get Strong – Get Fast

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

‘The Commute’ – Planes, Trains and Automobiles

After the recent RTE show ‘The Commute’ based on the commitment GAA players have to make to play for their clubs, it got me thinking of the scenario in Derry, where clubs have to fly players home regularly for training and games. 

This season Drumsurn were rarely able to have a full training session.  My own club Slaughtneil also have players working across the pond.  I was chatting to players from Claudy and lot of them including county player Marty Donaghy were working overseas.

More recently I was chatting to a player from Craigbane, who also have players studying and working in Scotland and England.  Here is the story of Aidan Kerlin:

My name is Aidan Kerlin, I am a student at the University of Glasgow, studying a Bachelors Degree in Primary Education. However, more importantly I am a member of the current Derry Intermediate football champions, Craigbane GAC.

Although most club players within Derry have a short, straightforward and laborious commute to training and matches. Myself and three other students on the panel have the added dilemma of crossing the Irish Sea in order to be part of the continuing success of our club. Paul Sharkey is studying at Northumbria University in Newcastle, while Noel Reilly and David Lowry are both at Liverpool John Moore’s University.

This ongoing commute has been the case for the last seven weeks, due to the overlap between our continuing season and the beginning of the university year on the 19th September.

Once we overcame Slaughtmanus in the quarter finals of the championship on the 10th September, we were aware that travel arrangements had to be put in place in order to be part of the ongoing season with Craigbane.

The next date on our GAA calendar was the championship semi-final with Drumsurn on the 24th September. Admittedly, this was a hard period of time for all of the students on the team, having to turn down the appeal of the annual Fresher’s Week festivities. However, we were aware that the prize of competing in our first county final was the reward. Thankfully keeping fit was not an issue, pre-season training with our various university teams helped to keep the fitness ticking over.

I have now become extremely familiar with the inside of airport terminals, train stations and early morning alarm calls in order to get home every weekend.

My weekly routine consists of a alarm call on a Friday morning, a quick bite of breakfast and a 20 minute walk to the nearby Glasgow Central train station. This is followed by a 50 minute train Journey to the remote Glasgow Prestwick International airport.

Here it is a waiting game for approximately an hour before we can begin boarding. Ironically, the quickest part of the journey is the flight itself; a quick 15 minute journey takes me across the Irish Sea and into the City of Derry airport.

From here it is a lazy day, reading the Gaelic Life, Derry Post and Irish News from the previous week to pass the time until training at on Friday night in Craigbane.

Next stop was Celtic Park, with Drumsurn the opponents. After a well documented shaky start we overcame Drumsurn to book our place in the county final against Swatragh. With Monday morning comes the commute back to Glasgow for another week of study. This commute is the same combination of trains, planes and airport terminals as the Friday adventure.

This commute has been repeated on numerous occasions since the start of the semester, including the county final win against Swatragh.  This was followed by a league victory over Ballerin days later.  Next up was Swatragh in the league semi final.  Then in was on to the Ulster campaign and a quarter final victory over Kilclief of Down.

The next week, it was back to the domestic scene, the  league final with Steelstown and this success puts us into senior football next season.  The most recent chapter was a win over Carrickmacross of Monaghan in the Ulster semi final.

However the continuous travelling can have its positives also, a few home cooked meals and a weekly batch of clothes been washed is a nice luxury to have.

Thanks to the financial support of the club and the ongoing success on the pitch, the travelling back and forth to university is a small price to pay for a great year with the club. And with the Ulster final still to contest, I look forward to another journey home.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Where is it all going wrong?

Before putting this blog entry together, I gave serious thought to the content I make available.  After what happened a well known intercounty footballer recently, I have given all the people mentioned in this blog entry aliases.  I don't want to 'cross the line' and get removed from the panel.

It's half time in Celtic Park, it’s championship quarter final day and the dressing room resembles a war zone. 

The physio is treating Tony the midfielder on the treatment table.  He suffered a back injury in the last kick-out of the half.  On the other side, the team doctor tries to stop the blood pouring from Paddy, the centre back’s busted nose.  Two players are blaming the referee, the man who struck Paddy should have been sent off.

In the shower area, Joe, the kitman brings out a fresh set of jerseys for the second half, the first set soaked from the deluge of rain.  Once the juice, jaffa cakes and water have been distributed team manager Liam gathers his thoughts. How has his team ended up two points in arrears after dominating the midfield exchanges?

The scoreboard reads 0-7 to 0-5.  Does he take off the two corner forwards?  Does he play two men up front on their own to create more space?  Are the corner backs not up to scratch?  Half time doesn't last long and soon there will be a knock on the door, failure to be out on time will result in a fine. When the last two players return from the toilet, the manager addresses the troops.

It's time to find out exactly where the game is being lost.  One of the management team takes out his iPhone.  During the first half he has been keeping stats using Dartfish Easytag (see screenshot).  They are winning at midfield and the forwards have only registered one wide. 

The problem is simple.  Too much possession being lost, including 7 misplaced fist passes, elementary errors. For the second half Liam urges his team to get back to basics.  We can’t have another series of failed attacks in the second half.

We have a strong midfield, a 'keeper with a great kick-out and a dangerous full forward line.  We need to eradicate the simple mistakes and get the ball forward early.  It is also stressed that the forwards need to keep making the runs to create space.

So within the space of 10 minutes a set of agitated players are now totally clear of what is required.  This is the power of some structured feedback.  A mindless ranting session at halftime can be replaced with a simple structured set of instructions for the second half. 

It doesn't need to be information overload as players are knackered and only take in limited information discussed during the interval.

From the screenshot, you can see quite a range of items.  The person taking the stats, depending on how much practice they have had, can record quite a bit of information.  However, remember no matter how many stats you take account of, the key is picking out the key ones to get across to the players.

As the players trot out for the second half they need to be totally clear of the plan for the second half.  Championship games need players with a calm head, there is an increased chance of better decision making when the game is in the melting pot.  Then at Tuesday night's session the information can be reinforced, giving the players a target for the next round.

Liam’s team will face the parish rivals in the semi final, whom they have not beaten in the last four meetings.  This is definitely a half time period that will need calm heads and clear instruction.

Have you any experience of team feedback at half time?  Let us know via the Comment Section below.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Phil Richards Internship - Day 5 - Putting it all Together

Our last day consisted of combining knowledge of every area we have studied in the last week and being able to blend it into our athletes programs at specific times.

Phil explained and demonstrated how to take body fat percentage from a 10 site skinfold and put this into a software program which will enable calculations to be done.

This program also effectively allows the design of individualised programs with ease and keeps records of athletes progress over a period of time. We finished off the day analysing blood under a high powered microscope and Phil was able to point out what an athlete is deficient and lacking in their diet.

All in all an amazing week with one of the worlds greatest sports nutritionist and strength coaches. One that I certainly can take away a lot from and hopefully be able to change peoples lives for the better!

Phil Richards Internship - Day 4 - Olympic Lifting

This morning we had the pleasure of meeting and being coached by 3 legends involved in Strength training and Weightlifting. Glenn Ross (World Masters Strongest Man), Ray Williams (Wales Weightlifting Coach and Commonwealth Gold medallist) and Neil Taylor (England Rugby Union Head Weightlifting Coach).

Already having learnt the benefits from Phil Richards about weightlifting for sports performance we spent a full day going through the Olympic lifts in practice with tips from each of the men, before we got to see Glenn produce the 83kg dumbbell which he was able to shoulder press 14 times and still holds the World Record!

Already feel more competent in being able to carry out these lifts and be able to implement them into programs. last day tomorrow putting it all together and Program Planning.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Phil Richard Internship - Day 3 - Reclaim your Health & Field Conditioning #2

This morning we covered one of the hottest topics in not only fitness but also in the eye of the general public as to how to gain good health and a happy disease free way of life.

Interesting to see what are the best foods to eat, what cooking does to our food and from a current GAA aspect the possible link between certain foods and drinks towards Sudden Death Syndrome and heart problems. Great to learn about which vitamins and minerals do what job and what levels we need for our body to be working at its best.

Early afternoon we had a practical field conditioning session on Swansea Rugby Club pitch which involved drills exceptional for fat loss, strength endurance and all over body conditioning. Easily just as tough a session as yesterday but with a bit more knowledge about supplementation and the timing of certain foods pre and post, the energy levels were through the roof throughout.

Later we finished off with learning about some other methods of strength training and seen the 8-12 week programs Phil had prescribed for athletes such as Amir Khan, Worcestor Warriors and Harlequins.

Looking forward to getting into the Gym tomorrow with big Glenn Ross and 2 World Class weightlifting coaches.

For more information follow @emcnprofitness on Twitter.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Phil Richards Internship - Day 2 - Strength Seminar & Field Conditioning

First class day learning about various methods of strength training from a number of the worlds greatest coaches, how to implement a program for athletes in different sports and how to reach beyond the barrier so many people seem to get stuck at.

The afternoon consisted of what can only be described as a brutal field conditoning training session. An unbelievable carry over to all sports and in particular field sports which work on developing strength endurance and high levels of conditioning.

Finished off the afternoon with supplements and why Phil has had to specifically design products to meet the demands placed on us during sport and exercise.

Looking forward to another tough session tomorrow!

Phil Richards Internship Day 1 - Speed Training & Nutrition

Great opening day with Phil Richards on internship in Swansea. Discussed in depth the reasoning behind speed training how to apply effectively and dismissed some of the myths and types of drills that does NOT work. Also had a practical session with an Olympic sprinting coach and some techniques used for a powerful acceleration and how to develop to top speed.

Nutrition information by Phil blew me away. Very important tips for competition eating, pre and post training including some amazing facts about the quality of meats we eat, water we drink and so called healthy foods we think we consume. Very intriguing as to how the timing of certain foods pre/post exercise can manipulate hormone production and how this can result in increase or decrease performance.

Cannot wait for tomorrows Strength seminar and field conditioning practical session. Pictures and report to follow!
For more information follow @emcnprofitness on Twitter.

EMCNProFitness Reports from Swansea

Eoin McNicholl
Eoin McNicholl (on Twitter @emcnprofitness) is going to be contributing to The Sporting Corner this month, on the area of Strength and Conditioning.
Here is some backgorund on EMCNProFitness:
  • Personal fitness training 
  • Weight Loss
  • Tailored fitness programmes
  • Strength and Conditioning
  • Individual or group sessions
  • Nutrition advice and programmes
  • Advice and provision of supplements tailored for specific needs
  • Motivation
  • Proven track record
  • Lastest and up to date training techniques
For more information on services or to arrange a FREE consultation please email or call 07763163371
Phil Richards
This week Eoin is attending a strength internship by Phil Richards in Swansea.  Phil runs a company Phil Richards Performance.  Here is a bit about his background.
Phil has worked with, and consulted for the best in premiership rugby, premiership soccer, super league, county cricket, boxing, cage fighting, athletics, weight lifting, strongman, golf, swimming and triathlon.  All at the highest level of professional sport.
More details are available at his website.
We will be adding Eoin’s entries to The Sporting Corner as the week goes on.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Ulster Club Championship

With the Derry titles nearly all accounted for, the Ulster scene is next on the agenda.  In hurling Kevin Lynch's have had their hopes dashed by Antrim champions Loughgiel.  Now it is the turn of the big ball, with three ties down for decision in two weeks time.

Sunday 30th October
Senior- Ballinderry v Dromore/Clonoe
Intermediate - Craigbane v Kilclief (Down)
Junior - Doire Trasna v Derrytresk (Tyrone)

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Watch out Sky Sports

At this year’s Tour De France, a TV car put Team Sky’s Juan Antonio Flecha off the road and forced Johnny Hoogerland into a barb wire fence.  I watrched it and I certainly was scary stuff.  It was a case of dangerous driving and the personnel involved were removed! 

This year I decided not to cycle in the Tour Of South Derry, so I offered my services to make a video of the event.  I was assigned the club video camera and was chauffered around in Seamus Higgins’ flashy blue BMW.  I felt like royalty.

His driving skills meant that we would be safe, would not be involved in a pile up and ensure we got as much footage as possible.  Sky Sports will not exactly be quaking in their boots just yet, but it’s a start.

The best method of video editing is with the package iMovie with the Apple Mac.  I wonder will Santa keep me in mind for a MacBook?

Friday, 14 October 2011

Experience of Ballinderry or Emerging Kilrea?

“You certainly get value for money when you watch Kilrea”, was the comment of James Kielt when I was chatting to him during the summer.  Kielt was spot on.  Kilrea’s championship has been packed full of drama.  Paul Morgan’s goalkeeping heroics against Magherafelt, the sendings off against Ballinderry, Emmet McKay’s penalty save against Banagher and Benny Quigg’s winning goal against Slaughtneil.  That’s not even mentioning their spirited second half showing against Loup.
I have to admit, when they went down to 12 men against Ballinderry in the championship and lost the game, I reckoned that Banagher would end their season.  They were in disarray.  Ballinderry could absorb three suspensions to central players but not Kilrea.  How wrong I was.  I followed the Banagher game on twitter from a weekend break in Letterkenny and the availability of James Kielt and the fashion in which Peter Doherty regrouped his troops after the Lavey debacle, proved a masterstroke.
At Glenullin in the quarter final, Slaughtneil were in control of the game, but Benny Quigg’s goal proved the winner.  The team I thought would have been an easy touch for Banagher had now put the Emmet’s out of the championship.
2005 U16 Champions Kilrea
Driving home from work through Kilrea the past week, it’s hard not to notice the county final fever that has gripped the town.  It reminds me of Slaughtneil in 2008.  That year we played 7 championship games including two replays, but Ballinderry spoiled the end to our season.  Our dramatic championship journey was in vain.
This Sunday, Kilrea will take the field for the first time in a county final.  Kevin McGuckin will lead Ballinderry out of the other dressing room.  As he jogs onto Celtic Park, joining him will be Conlan, McCusker, Conway, Gilligan and Muldoon from the team that ten years ago took the Derry title on route to the All-Ireland.  
As Fabian Muldoon gets them into the warmup, they will be joined by Kevin ‘Moss’ McGuckin, Conor Wilkinson, Michael McIver, Martin Harney and Collie Devlin.  Also factor in Connor Nevin, Ryan Scott and Declan Bell who are now seasoned championship players.  The Shamrock’s have a great blend, with Ryan Bell, Dermot McGuckin, Aaron Devlin and Tony Martin the newest players in the mix.
Enda Muldoon
Against Dungiven in the semi final, Ballinderry were cruising but took their foot off the pedal and gave them a lifeline into the game.  With the game heading for the finale, the sides were level.  Ballinderry, as they so often have done in the past, found an extra level and pushed on to win by five points. 
They have done it so often.  In 2006 v Slaughtneil at Glen, in 2008 v Slaughtneil in the final, in 2010 v Slaughtneil at Bellaghy, 2010 v Lavey at Greenlough and in 1995 in the Ulster Club against Errigal Ciaran.  All stewards to end of match positions then enter Raymond Bell with two goals to win the game on a damp October Sunday at Ballinascreen.  They never seem to panic; it’s a great trait to have.  I remember ex-Crossmaglen manager Donal Murtagh saying that the first half was about making sure you were in the game, the second half is when you win it.
On Sunday when the game is in the mix will Ballinderry’s guile and experience prevail over the fresh new kids on the block?  Or will Kilrea follow on from Coleraine, Loup and Slaughtneil by winning a title with a team with a relatively low average age? The average age of Ballinderry’s starting 15 for Sunday (from Derry Post likely lineups) is 26, Kilrea’s is 22.
Of the 8 people who predicted the game for this blog, we had one draw, one Kilrea win and six saying that the John McLaughlin will be heading for Shamrock Park.  Here are the views of the pundits.
Paddy Downey (Bellaghy) - In my opinion Ballinderry will win John McLaughlin this year. I think that their greater experience at this stage will be key and also the fact that they have already defeated this up and coming Kilrea team in the championship gives them that extra belief and could put some doubt into the minds of the Kilrea players.
Ballinderry will not want to experience the same hurt as last year. Throughout the knock out stages of this year’s championship, whenever Ballinderry have been asked the question they have come out the other side with relative ease and in my opinion in Kevin 'Moss' McGuckin they have the player of the championship this year. I have no doubt that Kilrea will be contesting championship finals for the years to come but I just think that Ballinderry will shade this one in what could be a case of having to lose one before you win one for this group of Kilrea players.  Prediction: Ballinderry
Enda Gormley (Glen) - Both sides will be putting a lot of emphasis on the midfield battle going into this game. Ballinderry will be asking why their midfield has faded badly in the large periods in the second half of the Bellaghy and Dungiven games while Kilrea have shown a marked improvement in this area in their last two games.
This for me is mainly down to a vast improvement in James Kielt’s game as he seems to have taken his work rate to a completely different level recently. For Kilrea to win they will need a much better return from their full forward line which would lack both the ball winning ability and creativity of Ballinderry’s attack. For me the greater potency of the Ballinderry attack will decide the game in their favour.  Prediction: Ballinderry.
Mickey Drumm (Lavey) - It’s hard to look past Ballinderry for this one. They’ll be smarting from last year’s defeat to Coleraine so overconfidence shouldn’t be a problem.  Their side has plenty of experience and have introduced a few younger players this year and they seem to be doing well.
Kilrea are seriously fit so if they can keep it close going into the last 10 they’ll be in with a great shout.  Prediction: Ballinderry by 3.
Joe McCloskey (Slaughtneil) - Championship dictates that the two best teams reach the final, and on the evidence of their performances, this is probably true of this year’s final. Both teams will enter Celtic Park with an abundance of confidence that they can ferry the John McLaughlin cup back to their respective parishes.
The Kielt brothers are obviously the stand out players for Kilrea, but for me, it has been the half forward line that has laid the foundations for their victories this year. The Shamrocks suffered a blow with the loss of James Conway, but Kevin Moss [McGuckin] has more than made up for his absence with some powerful displays. The exuberance of a first final may drive Kilrea to the title, however, I feel that Ballinderry have a slicker attacking forward line which should see them edge it.  Prediction: Ballinderry
Gerard O’Kane (Glenullin) – The final on Sunday is something I am really looking forward to.  Like last year it is new territory for one of the teams and I suppose this also helps to keep public interest pretty high. 
On the subject matter of who will win, it is a real difficult one.  Ballinderry have the greater scoring threat from play, their forward line has been going really well, they would have the greater physical power than a younger Kilrea side and undoubtedly have greater experience. 
Taking all that into consideration it obviously points to a Ballinderry victory, however, having been in the position before that Kilrea are in, and I know it is an over used term in Gaelic football, hunger for Kilrea has to be a massive factor.  For a club never to have won it, to be in their first final it has to be a massive driving factor for them. 
That is not to say the likes of Kevin McGuckin, Enda, Deets, who have 4/5 medals don’t want it badly either and after getting beat last year it might also spur them on too so all in all it makes for an interesting day.  At the risk of being accused of sitting on the fence (or offending any of my mothers side of the family in Kilrea as she is from Kilrea but is now a Glen woman) I am going to say it will take a second day to separate these 2 teams.  Prediction: Draw
Richard Ferris (Drumsurn) - Most experts will go for Ballinderry on the experience of their side but this young Kilrea team will love the challenge come Sunday, having had lots of success at underage levels these boys know how to win big games.
The Shamrocks are favourites and rightly so with  players of the quality of Kevin McGuckin, Enda Muldoon, Conleith Gilligan and probably the player of the championship to date Kevin Moss McGuckin. Add to this the younger talent Aaron Devlin, Tony Martin and the new kid on the block Ryan Bell it will take a big performance from the men from the banks of the Bann to defeat Ballinderry.
Kilrea will look to the Kielt brothers, the McWilliams, Enda McAleese who I think is going well this year.  The Pearses have young guns too with Benny Quigg, Paddy McNeill, Joe Morgan and Tieran Rafferty all class players.
It’s all on the day and Celtic Park is the place you want to play and you want to be there to play on County Final day for your club, not many get the chance. Both teams are well prepared by two very experienced managers Martin McKinless and Peter Doherty.  So a great game is expected for a number of reasons, will experience out do youth. Prediction: the young guns this time - Kilrea to cross the Glenshane with John McLaughlin.
Neil McCloy (Loup) - An intriguing final between an experienced Ballinderry team and an emerging Kilrea team. I believe Ballinderry will be victorious Mal. I feel they will be smarting from defeat last year and will have learned from that valuable lesson. I also feel that they have too many quality forwards that will be hard to contain on the wide space of Celtic Park. Sometimes you have to lose a final before winning one and therefore Ballinderry get my nod. Prediction: Ballinderry
Paddy Bradley (Glenullin) - Ballinderry are hot favourites for the final and rightly so as they have consistently been the top team in Derry for 5-6 years now. After losing the final last year I don’t see complacency as a problem and they will be keen to get their hands on John McLaughlin again after last years disappointment.
Kilrea have had luck on their side to date. Magherafelt missed a penalty, Banagher had a goal disallowed, Loup a man sent off at a crucial stage. You need luck to win championships. Had we had luck we could possibly have won another 1 or 2. I think the game will be fairly close for the majority of it but in the end I think Ballinderry have better forwards and expect this to pull them through in the end. Prediction: Ballinderry by 4.
Thanks to the pundits for expressing their views.  Sunday will answer many questions, or will Gerard O’Kane be spot on with a draw.
Follow the game on twitter @malmcmullan

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Midfield crucial in Intermediate Final

Two contrasting semi finals, Craigbane conceded 5 goals but racked up an impressive 2-19 tally to see off Drumsurn.  It was an open game which Derry PRO Chris McCann referred to as one of the best games of the season.  Then again he wasn’t at the Slaughtneil v Glen U14 final the same day, but as a Slaughtneil man I am probably biased.
Craigbane's Lee Moore
If one semi final was open, the Moneymore and Swatragh game was a war of attrition, with neither team taking a grip of the game, until a late Swatragh scoring burst saw them advance to the final. 
After the game I informed Swatragh manager Artie Kearney of his final opponents, he indicated that he would be concentrating more on his own side than Craigbane.  However, when ‘the Swa’ meet to put their plans together I’m sure Lee Moore will get a mention in their blueprint for success.
At the other end of the county Kevin Moore will be getting his troops ready for action.  On looking at the record books, it indicates that Craigbane have won the intermediate title on six previous occasions, pointing to a strong championship pedigree.  In fairness, it’s a statistic you can’t compare with Swatragh as the Davitts have spent most of their time in the senior ranks and will have huge aspirations of a return in 2012.
Due to playing in a different grade, I am not aware of any previous championship meetings, but there is a link between the two clubs.  Former Swatragh player Anthony Tohill resides in Craigbane, but with a new house under construction along the Moneysharvin Road, the Tohill name will once again be on the Swatragh teamsheets in the years to come.
Conor McAtamney’s vital point against Moneymore or Craigbane’s impressive points tally will matter little as Martin McErlane throws in the ball at on Saturday at Ballymaguigan.  Championship games are all on the day and anything can happen.  Whatever happens between then and the final whistle will determine the destination of the title. 
The only intermediate game I saw this season was Swatragh v Moneymore so it will be hard to make a call on this game.  However, knowing the capability of Lee Moore the midfield sector will be vital, deciding the amount of possession he sees on Saturday. 
Over the past few days I have been in contact with various people from the intermediate ranks, seeking their opinions on the game.  One common denominator is evident, the supply of ball to the Craigbane attack.  Here are their opinions and predictions.
Ciaran Mullan (Drumsurn) - This is a tight one to call, I think it'll be fairly even in round the middle.  If Craigbane can get Lee Moore enough ball he'll test the Swatragh defence and the same can be said about big Ruairi Convery at the other end.  I think Swatragh have the tighter defence and that should narrowly see them through in a low scoring game by 2-3 pts.  Prediction: Swatragh
Martin Donaghy (Claudy) – I think Craigbane will maybe just shade it by a point or two.  It will depend a lot on how their defence copes with the aerial threat of big Ruairi [Convery].  The midfield battle will also be key as both teams are strong in that area and will be the launch pad for feeding two dangerous full forwards.  Prediction: Craigbane
Declan Toner (Ballerin Coach) - This years Intermediate Championship final has the potential to be a classic as it is being contested by the 2 strongest teams in the division.  I feel it will be a very close encounter as both teams are filled with very talented footballers.  Both teams would be very strong in the midfield sector and whoever comes out on top in this area, by winning the most break ball, should go on to win the game.  Putting my head on the block I think if Craigbane win enough primary possession I fancy them to win this game (if they don't concede too many goals) as I feel their forwards would be more clinical with their chances in front of goal compared with Swatragh's.  Prediction: Craigbane.
Mickey Friel of Swatragh
Paddy McGuckin (Moneymore manager) - I think it will be a very close game between two evenly matched sides. I feel the midfield sector will be crucial and it may boil down to who can dominate possession in this area. The battle between Mickey Friel and Blaine Gormley will be important.  If I was to predict a winner I would go for Craigbane to edge it, as I think with the Moores and McLaughlin up front they have the slightly more dangerous forwards.  Prediction: Craigbane
Neil Forester (Steelstown) - After the blip at the start of the year Swatragh quickly realised Intermediate football can be a dogfight and have gone on a great run and from playing them recently they don't have too many weak links.
Obviously their strength lies in midfield but even if Craigbane manage to break even or win the area, Swatragh have a lot about them to get by anyway through turnovers. Craigbane have great players in key positions but lack a full 15 with some older players, something Swatragh should exploit but they have a deadly attack with Lee Moore and Aidy McLaughlin I think they will run riot.
Conceding 5 goals against Drumsurn in the semi-final can't be overlooked. They struggled badly that day with the half-backs isolating the full back line and Convery will undoubtedly play a part in this final, and I’m not sure if Craigbane can cope with the big man, and the inside forwards Swatragh have can cause damage too as they did to Steelstown in the Quarter Final.
I believe the senior experience will shine through for Swatragh as it did with Castledawson last year, just about.  Prediction: Swatragh
Chris Collins (Ogra Colmcille) - My prediction for the intermediate final would be Craigbane, I believe Swatragh have a couple of slight injury concerns and with Craigbane's mixture of youth and experience I think Swatragh would need to be full out and playing well to beat them.
It's a big day for the likes of Rory and Ryan Moore and James Kearney and Conor McAtamney playing their first full senior season and to be in a final, ask most footballers coming to an end of their playing career and they'll all tell you they don't come around that often so don't let it pass you by and try to enjoy it!  Prediction: Craigbane
Mark McGeehan (Limavady Coach) – I think Lee Moore is the major difference between the two teams and Swatragh’s ability to stop his supply will be vital.  I think however that a more industrious and physical Swatragh team will be able to cope with it.  Then it’s a case of Craigbane’s ability to handle the inevitable introduction of Ruairi Convery to the edge of the square.  This game will be very close to call and I think it will take more than 60 minutes to separate them.  Prediction: Draw
Oisin Duffy (Foreglen) - From playing against both teams I think Craigbane are a better all round team. They have better players all over the field. I imagine Ryan Dillon will try to mark Lee [Moore] but if the right ball is played into him it won’t matter who is marking him.
I think a lot will depend on how well Blaine [Gormley] or Aidy [McLaughlin] do on Friel but Aidy is very athletic and is hard to stop on the run. However if Robbie McWilliams gets good ball into him at full forward he's very sharp and very dangerous so hopefully it will be a good game but I imagine Craigbane will run out eventual winners. Prediction: Craigbane
Cahair O’Kane (Derry Post) - Has the potential to be a cracking game, better than the Senior Final. There might be nothing in it. Craigbane might have the championship pedigree in the last 20 years but it is 10years since they won one and most of their players have no medals to show. Swatragh haven’t won much since 1979 and as such there will be no shortage of hunger on either side.
I just think that the tight Ballymaguigan pitch will suit a physically strong Swatragh team and narrow the space in front of Lee and Ryan Moore. But in the end it will come down to which side gets the goal. Prediction: Swatragh
So based on the pundit’s predictions, Craigbane won’t be going to Ballymaguigan to make up the numbers.  Last season Castledawson’s senior experience helped them across the line in a few of the games.  Artie Kearney indicated his Swatragh side won’t be too concerned about Craigbane and will be confident in his side’s ability to dig out results.  If he is reading this column, he won’t be too concerned and I am not sure if this column will make it onto the back of the Swatragh changing room door this week.  As the clock ticks towards half five and Martin McErlane blows his full time whistle, we’ll know more then.
For live Twitter updates follow @malmcmullan on Saturday.
Once again thanks to the various people for contributing to this preview.