Sunday’s Senior Championship Final sees something of a Cinderella story taking place as Naomh Mairtin, picked by some for a relegation dogfight, will contest their first senior semi-final since 2005 when Mattock Rangers defeated them.
It’s a remarkable story for the Mairtins and it shows how a team of youth and experience can come together to fuse a winning team.
Placed in a group with the Dreadnots and St Mary’s, some said that the Mairtins may have found that group hard to get out of, but they did so with ease, topping the group which put them on course with Cooley Kickhams in the quarter-finals.
Going into the game, the attention was on the returning Brian White for Cooley, but it should have been on the Mairtins who played a perfect game against the Kickhams and booked their spot in the semis with a 1-10 to 0-11 victory.
Patrick Halligan’s goal on the day was the difference maker but again, it’s their old guard which continues to go from strength to strength as Nicky McDonnell, Francis McCullough and JP Rooney are still showing signs of brilliance at this level.
However, if they want their fairytale to continue to the final, they will need to be on top form against a free-scoring Blues team that so far has took no prisoners.
As decimating Glyde Rangers in their opening game of the Championship, the result made a lot of people stand up and take notice of the Blues as they won 1-21 to 0-7, a crushing victory.
They showed no signs of letting up against Kilkerley, cruising to victory which saw them top the group, setting up a quarter-final with Dundalk Gaels, which went down to the fire in perhaps the most thrilling Championship match this year.
Experienced heads prevailed as the Blues managed to edge out the win, but along the way, their achilles heel has been their temperament. They have had a man sent off in each of their last two games for incidents off the ball.
If they want to have any shot of getting their hands on Joe Ward, then last year’s Cardinal O’Donnell Cup winners will have to keep their heads.
Naomh Mairtin will have to do the same as John Kermath in the middle of the field for the Blues has been pinpoint accurate from frees all year.
The Blues should have enough firepower to beat the Mairtins, but people have been saying that all year as regards teams who came up against the Mairtins.
Their young players will know that they have nothing to fear as the pressure will be on the Blues to perform after two years of not getting to a Championship.
If the Blues team that hammered Gylde turn up, then the Cinderella story could become a nightmare.
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