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"They've got it, they've done it, they've stolen it, they've won it!"

18 November 2018; Colin Fennelly of Ballyhale Shamrocks scores his side's sixth goal after his team-mate TJ Reid passed the ball to him from a free during the AIB Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Club Championship semi-final match between Naomh Éanna and Ballyhale Shamrocks at Innovate Wexford Park in Wexford. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

21 Nov 2018

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"They've got it, they've done it, they've stolen it, they've won it!", shouted the exasperated Northern Sound radio commentator, Alan Gunn. This was at the end of a dramatic Ulster semi-final between Scotstown and Eoghan Rua Coleraine in Omagh on Sunday.   

Gunn’s passion was evident as he not only had witnessed an amazing spectacle, but he also reflected the feeling of many of those listening who wanted their fellow county men to win.

“I’m not a Scotstown man but I feel like one right now!”, exclaimed Gunn - whose joy was a reminder that club success is not just about the borders of one’s parish, it’s something that can bring pride to a whole county.

Once again, All-Star Rory Beggan was a hero for Scotstown, scoring a monster free from the 45 deep into injury time to win the game. That score ensured the win and a place in the Ulster Final against Donegal’s Gaoth Dobhair on Sunday, December 2nd. An Ulster club title is important to the four in a row Monaghan champions who are back in the decider for the first time since 2015. At the recent AIB GAA Club Championship launch, Beggan told reporters that not winning a provincial title would make their journey feel incomplete, regardless of how much success they’ve enjoyed in Monaghan.

Standing in Scotstown’s way of provincial success for the first time since 1989 are Gaoth Dobhair. Three goals in 17 minutes from Daire Ó Baoill sent the Donegal men on their way past Crossmaglen in their semi-final. In a team of stars including Odhran Mac Niallais, Kevin Cassidy, Neill McGee and Eamon McGee, Ó Baoill is a stand out player which goes to show exactly how good he is.

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It’s a great time for any club that makes it to the provincial finals with the excitement and joy keeping that dark winter feeling at bay. That’s a feeling Corofin are used to and next Sunday they have the chance to complete a three in a row in Connacht when they face Ballintubber in Castlebar. Ballintubber know all too well the danger of Corofin. In their first and only final appearance so far, they lost 2-13 to 1-7, a nine-point loss to the Galway side in the 2014 decider.

When you mention St Joseph’s and the Club Championship, one may think of the great St Joseph’s Doora Barefield side that won back to back hurling All-Irelands in 1999 and 2000. However, its St Josephs’s Miltown - Malbay that are now flying the flag for the Banner. The west Clare outfit, who only returned to the senior ranks in 2013, take on seven-time winners Dr Crokes in their first ever Munster Senior Football Final this Sunday in Limerick. Just like the hurling, St Joseph’s (the Miltown Malbay based outfit) have a player called Jamsie O’Connor - but the footballing version is no relation to the legendary Banner star of the 90’s.

There’s a Clare connection to the Leinster semi-finals too with former Banner forward Pat Burke hoping to lead Kilmacud Crokes to their first provincial final since 2010. Crokes take on Portlaoise in Parnell Park in Sunday’s semi-final. The two have had contrasting journeys to this stage of the competition with Paul Mannion scoring 2-6 for Crokes in a 16-point win over Dunboyne. Portlaoise were tested in their quarter-final, beating holders Moorefield 1-14 to 1-11 in Newbridge. 

In the other semi-final, Éire Óg of Carlow look to replicate past glories when they face semi-final first timers Mullinalaghta of Longford. Éire Óg last won Leinster in 1999 and the current squad are keen to forge their own legacy in this competition. Mullinalaghta are on the brink of history this Sunday. If they win, they’ll become the first ever Longford side to reach a provincial club final. Their manager, Mickey Graham, declared the “shackles were off” his team - once they did what was expected, by winning a third county title in a row. Graham is in his last days in charge of Mullinalaghta before he takes over Cavan, but he’s in no rush out the door and would love to extend his time in charge with victory on Sunday.

When Na Piarsaigh had a disputed point awarded in the first half of yesterday’s AIB Munster Club Hurling Final, Ballygunner must have thought ‘here we go again’. They’ve been beaten in two finals and a semi-final by the Limerick side in recent seasons.

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A rally just before half time - which included a penalty goal from Stephen O’Keefe - had Ballygunner leading by a point at the break. The belief and hunger of the Gunners was clear to see throughout the game. However, if they were looking for a sign that this was their year, it came when Pauric Mahony’s long range free dropped short and bounced into the net to give the Waterford men an eight-point lead. To their credit, Na Piarsaigh fought back but always looked second best against Fergal Hartley’s team, who went on to win their first provincial title since 2001.

“This team deserves this Championship there’s no doubt about it”, centre back Wayne Hutchinson told WLR radio as fans shouted “go on the Hutch” in the background.

Portraying a mix of relief and joy, manager Fergal Hartley praised his players resilience:

“It’s five years in the making, this has been a crusade for this team. These boys are resilient. There’s great stuff in them, there’s great character. After last year, we were questioned - but these guys came back and went at it harder and harder. You see the way we played today, that’s the way they train”.

Matching the achievements of the past is important for many players all around the country. A 17 year wait for the Munster title was made all the sweeter for Pauric Mahony when he saw the class of 2001 alumni; Tom Fives, Andy Moloney, Colin Kehoe and Billy O’Sullivan come onto the pitch after the game. Mahony expressed his delight that his team can hold their heads high around the club having matched what was won before.

10 goals, 53 points, two periods of extra time and four sendings off is what Ballyboden St Enda’s and Coolderry served up in their Leinster semi-final at Parnell Park. Eventually the Dublin side overcame the Offaly men on a score line of 5-28 to 5-25! When you see #TheToughest on various social media post and articles, it’s normally referring to the championship itself. However, the person who has to edit that game into a short highlights package for TG4’s Monday night highlights show truly has #TheToughest job in the world this week. Ballyboden have had to go through a replay to beat Kilmacud Crokes in the Dublin final and have since gone to extra time in their two Leinster championship games. It’s fair to say the Firhouse outfit are battle hardened for their meeting with 8-time winners Ballyhale Shamrocks on Sunday, December 2nd.

The Kilkenny side conceded 4-11 against Naomh Eanna, but a return of 6-21 was enough to see them through to their first Leinster final since 2014. Colin Fennelly scored 4-4 for Henry Shefflin’s team. Shefflin’s ex-teammate Eddie Brennan has also moved into management, replacing Eamonn Kelly as Laois boss. After his display for Graigue-Ballycallan in the Leinster Intermediate semi-final on Saturday, the O’Moore county might consider Brennan for a player-manager role. Fast Eddie scored 1-1 as his side eased past St Mogues Fethard in Callan. They’ll meet Portlaoise in the final on Saturday, December 1st.

A familiar face has emerged out of Galway for the All-Ireland series. St Thomas’ won the All-Ireland club title in 2013. They’re just one game away from returning to Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day with their 2-13 to 0-10 win over last year’s county champions, Liam Mellows.  John Burke led a Saint Thomas’s team, including his six sons, to the All-Ireland title in 2013. Burke has since moved onto Oranmore/Maree who this weekend take on defending Champions Tooreen in the Connacht Intermediate final. 

Former All-Ireland winners with Wexford, Mags D’Arcy and Noeleen Lambert, turned a good year into a great year for St Martin’s, beating Thomastown in the Leinster Club Camogie Final. That’s a first ever provincial title for St Martin’s who lost to the same opposition in last year’s decider. The Wexford club are an ambitious outfit. Having captured a first ever county title last year and a first Leinster Championship this year, they’ll now set their sights on the All-Ireland.

FIXTURES

Sunday November 25th

Munster club SFC final:  Dr Crokes (Kerry) v Saint Joseph’s Miltown - Malbay (Clare)  , Gaelic grounds Limerick, 1.30pm.

Connacht club SFC final:  Ballintubber (Mayo) v Corofin (Galway) , Elvery’s McHale park Castlebar , 2.00pm.

Leinster club SFC semi-final: Ballyboden Saint Enda’s (Dublin) v Coolderry (Offaly), Parnell Park Dublin, 2.00pm.

Leinster club SFC semi - final: Mullinalaghta St Columba’s (Longford) v Eire ÓG (Carlow), Glennon Brothers Pearse Park Longford, 1.30pm

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