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Wide-Open Ulster Club Championship Should Make For Two Fascinating Semifinals This Weekend

Wide-Open Ulster Club Championship Should Make For Two Fascinating Semifinals This Weekend
By Gary Connaughton
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With two-time defending champions Slaughneil failing to advance from their county, this year's Ulster Club SFC is wide open. There is a mix of experienced and rising teams in the semi-finals, and all four will undoubtedly fancy their chances of going all the way this year.

While Scotstown are favourites, and Crossmaglen have that big-game experience, neither Gaoth Dobhair or Eoghan Rua should be taken lightly.

Ahead of the double-header in Healy Park this Sunday, we have taken a look at each of the teams, and try to see where the games could be won and lost.

Eoghan Rua v Scotstown 1.30pm

Eoghan Rua

Eoghan Rua claimed their first county title since 2010 this year, knocking out four-time defending champions Slaughneil along the way. It was a shock result, but one that was richly deserved.

They overcame Cavan's Castlerahan in a strange encounter in the Ulster quarter-final, on a scoreline of 2-11 to 0-11. The game looked to be over at halftime, with the Coleraine side holding a healthy lead over 14-man Castlerahan.

However their decision to play defensively in the second period allowed the opposition back into the game, with the deficit reduced to as little as point late on. They rallied towards the end to secure the result, but it will serve as a timely reminder that nothing comes easy in the Ulster Championship.


Led by inter-county players Niall Holly, Liam McGoldrick, and Sean Leo McGoldrick (two of five McGoldrick brothers in the side), they will be hoping to shock heavy favourites Scotstown this Sunday.

If they can repeat their first half display for the quarter-final for the full 60 minutes, they have a chance of doing so. However any easing off such as we seen in that game will surely prove to be deadly this time around.



Scotstown are the prohibitive favourites in a wide-open provincial championship at this stage, and they have looked very strong thus far. Having gone 20 years without a county title from 1993-2013, they have definitely rediscovered their winning mentality.

They had far too much for Fermanagh's Derrygonnelly Harps in the opening round of Ulster this year, before coming out on top of tight game against Burren last time out. That game finished on a scoreline of 0-13 to 0-10, and All-Star goalkeeper Rory Began undoubtedly stole the show. He kicked a monster free, as well as, unbelievably, a point from play.

They enter the game against Eoghan Rua as heavy favourites, with a strong recent pedigree tipping the tie in their favour. They have won four Monaghan titles in a row, but have yet to make that decisive breakthrough in Ulster.


They will certainly fancy their chances of doing so this year, having reached the final only once during their three year run as Monaghan champions. That final appearance came in 2015, with Crossmaglen ending their dreams of a first provincial title since 1989.

Shane Carey will be the main threat up front, and Eoghan Rua will have to keep him quiet to have any chance. Scotstown will fancy themselves here, and indeed of coming out of Ulster this year.

Gaoth Dobhair v Crossmaglen, 3.30pm.

Gaoth Dobhair


Donegal champions Gaoth Dobhair brushed aside Antrim's Cargin in the quarter-final, running out winners on a scoreline of 3-11 to 1-13. They are back on the provincial stage after a 14-year absence, and looked more than comfortable upon their return.

They were without star man Odhrán Mac Niallais in that game, who missed out due to a broken to a finger. He is set to return to action against perennial Ulster contenders Crossmaglen this weekend, and will be a massive boost in their bid to become the first Donegal team since 1975 to capture the Ulster championship.


Make no mistake, that is the goal.

It incredible to think that only one Donegal club has won the provincial crown, but Gaoth Dobhair will surely hope bridge that gap. With a team featuring inter-county talents such as Mac Niallais, Neil McGee and Daire Ó Báill, provincial honours are surely not out of reach.

They will have to do it without centre-back Kieran Gillespie however, who was stretchered after suffering a game-ending injury only seconds into the action against Cargin. The cruciate injury will rule him out for the rest of the campaign, regardless of how far Gaoth Dobhair progress.

They will fancy themselves against Crossmaglen, and if Mac Niallais can replicate his county final tally of 0-8, they certainly have a chance.


If Gaoth Dobhair are looked upon as the new kids on the block, Crossmaglen are quite the opposite.

Before this season Crossmaglen had not been Armagh champions since 2015, and for many in the club it must have felt like a lifetime.

They have been undoubtedly the most successful club side in the country, with 11 provincial and six All-Ireland wins to their name since 1996. That's not to mention their run of 19 county championship crowns in 20 years. It is an unparalleled level of sustained success that we had never seen before, and in all likelihood will never see again.

The last couple of years have been a dip by their incredibly high standards, but they are back where they belong amongst the Ulster elite. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and that seems to be the case when it comes to Crossmaglen's desire to go all the way in their province.

They edged by Coalisland Fianna in a bruising quarter-final, with O’Neill brothers Oisin and Rian the catalysts for the win. Aaron Kernan's presence in the half-back line will also add that bit of top-game experience to a side who find themselves suddenly unfamiliar with the business end of the Ulster Championship.

The Gaoth Dobhair match-up is a fascinating one, and how they handle Odhrán Mac Niallais will go a long way to deciding the result.

All Of Sunday's GAA Club Action:

Munster Club Senior Hurling Championship Final

Na Piarsaigh (Limerick) v Ballygunner (Waterford) - Semple Stadium, 2pm.

Leinster Club Senior Hurling Championship Semi-Finals

Ballyboden St Endas (Dublin) v Coolderry (Offaly) - Parnell Park, 2pm.

Naomh Eanna (Wexford) v Ballyhale Shamrocks (Kilkenny) - Innovate Wexford Park, 1.30pm.

Ulster Club Senior Football Championship Semi-Finals

Eoghan Rua (Derry) v Scotstown (Monaghan) - Healy Park, 1.30pm.

Gaoth Dobhair (Donegal) v Crossmaglen Rangers (Armagh) - Healy Park, 3.30pm.

SEE ALSO: Strap Yourself In For A Bumper Day Of Live GAA On TG4 This Sunday

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