PREVIEW: IFC down to quarter-final stages

Four intriguing last-eight clashes down for decision

The quarter-finals of the Hotel Kilmore Intermediate Football Championship throw in this evening (8.15pm) at HQ as Ballyhaise meet Cootehill Celtic in an intriguing opener.

Ballyhaise, under the management of Monaghan man Declan Brennan, will start as favourites having coasted through the group stages, averaging over 20 points per game. Their strikeforce, including the likes of David Brady, Kevin Tierney, Sean McCormack and the evergreen Stephen Smith, has been in excellent form, with Martin Conaty coming for his first start last time out against Ramor United and bagging an eye-catching 3-7.

Much will depend on how the Celtics’ rearguard, led by the likes of Sean O’Connor and the vastly-experienced Barry McGahan, can handle the Ballyhaise attack. Up front, Shane Sexton and Caoimhin Carney – who hit two goals last time out against Killeshandra – have been in good form while talisman John McCutcheon can always be relied upon.

Tomorrow, Bailieborough Shamrocks meet Ballymachugh in what looks likely to be a close affair. The Shamrocks looked to be crashing out of the competition when they trailed 0-11 to 0-6 against Drumlane last Sunday in Stradone but the rallied impressively, with attacker Luke Gilsenan finishing with 1-10 to his name.

Bailieborough, under former player Finbar Clarke, have progressed well but the Hughs, for their part, have been motoring along nicely under the radar with wins over Cornafean, Killeshandra and Drumgoon, although Bailieborough will represent a step up in quality more than likely.

Raymond Reilly’s men will look to the likes of forwards Mark Kiernan and Killian Smith to shoot them into the semis with county player Liam Buchanan also an integral figure around the middle.

On Sunday, Ballinagh take on Belturbet in a very intriguing contest. The sides met just a week ago and Ballinagh ran out easy winners; however, the health warning around that game is that Ballinagh needed to win while the Rorys were already through to the knock-out stages.

Niall McDermott, back from injury, scored 0-10 in that game while Shane Finnegan, Thomas Smith and David Finnegan were also lively up front. Belturbet have been extremely competitive at this level in recent seasons, making the final last year, and they will look to top scorer Enda Henry, who has been consistently outstanding for years now, along with the likes of Conall McGinley to fire them into the last four.

Finally, free-scoring Butlersbridge take on last year’s junior champions Killinkere on Sunday evening in another game which could well go to the wire. The Bridge, under George Dugdale, were irresistible in the group, racking up huge tallies, with every player from midfield up including John Fitzpatrick, the O’Reilly brothers, the Leddy brothers and Shane O’Rourke registering frequently while at the back, former Cavan player Feargal Flanagan is crucial.

Killinkere, meanwhile, were up and down in the group stage but they came good when they needed to with a big win over Arva and then a stunning upset of neighbours Cuchulainns last weekend in Virginia.

Speedster Peter McCabe (above), Emmett Fitzsimons and Jamie Smith were among the stars on that occasion and along with Jason McMahon and Gary Denning among others, they will be expected to be instrumental if Paddy Bates’ charges can return to the IFC last four for the first time since 2016.

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