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.

No comments: