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Assan and Ballymachugh can squeeze through in U21 finals

Story by Tom Kelly

Thursday, 29th November, 2012 9:30am

Assan and Ballymachugh can squeeze through in U21 finals

Assan Gaels defender Aaron Smith will be a key man.

Paul Fitzpatrick

The curtain will finally be drawn on the year's football action - 99 per cent of it in any case - with the staging of the two U21 championship finals this weekend and it's fitting that both have the look of potential crackers.

In the Division 1 decider, Cavan Gaels will attempt to wrestle the crown away from champions Assan Gaels (Lavey, Killinkere and Cuchulainns). The town side have impressed thus far, seeing off a very strong St Joseph's outfit in the semi-final, and will be keen to salvage something from what has been a disappointing 12 months by their club's lofty standards.

However, they face a tough task against Assan, who won the title last year with a last-minute goal from Karl Duke against Newtown Gaels and who were outstanding in seeing off Drumbo (Drumalee and Ballyhaise) after a replay and Shannonport (Shannon Gaels, Kildallan and Templeport) in the last two rounds.

Both sides have no shortage of firepower up front and have plenty of county pedigree. Assan Gaels rely heavily on the creativity of Chris Conroy on the 40, with Shane Tierney, assisted by Killinkere's Emmet Fitzsimons, their man scorer inside. Cavan Gaels, however, are no slouches going forward either.

The likes of left-footer Vinny Coyle, the tricky Padraig Sexton and Ulster underage medallists Andy Graham and Paul O'Connor are extremely dangerous and will be expected to cause plenty of trouble for the Assan defence, who are led by full-back Aaron Smith.

The midfield battle, as always, will be crucial, and on paper at least, there is little to choose between the sides. Towering county minor Senan Gilchreest pairs up well with Duke and their battle with Ulster MFC-winning captain Paul Graham and the high-fielding Kevin Brady, a county colleague of Gilchreest's this year, will be an intriguing one.

The Gaels are mobile outfit with pace throughout the side, from full-back Darragh Sexton through the Fortunes in the half-back line. However, Assan, with an "older" side, may hold the physical edge and if they can nullify the likes of O'Connor and secure a sufficicent supply to Tierney, it could be enough to get them over the line in a tight battle.

In the Division 2 final, Shercock and Ballymachugh meet in what is a real pick 'em contest. The Hughs have been in outstanding form, demolishing a very strong Laragh side in a replayed semi-final last weekend. However, Shercock have also impressed.

The team is led by county senior Killian Clarke, who has been operating in the forward line, but they are far from a one-man team, with Cavan U21 defende Brian Sankey a key man around the middle and Niall Clerkin a reliable scoring forward. Ballymachugh will look to county minor midfielder Liam Buchanan-Goldrick along with Kevin Reilly at midfield, while Killian Smith - who scored 1-8 from play last time out - and Adon McFarlane are key men up front.

Verdict: Assan Gaels by two, Ballymachugh by one

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