Lochside Garage

Belnaleck can do the business


Ciaran McBrien goalbound shot was blocked by Dundrums keeper Mark Smith

Erne junior champions Belnaleck can create a piece of history this Sunday if they can overcome the challenge of Derrytrasna to become the first Fermanagh side ever to reach the provincial final at this grade.
The re-organisation of Fermanagh championship football a few seasons back has opened up doors for the clubs who are playing at this level and it would seem to be only a matter of time before an Ulster breakthrough arrives.
Over the past four years progress has been made by Coa and Newtownbutler, but in the end both of them came up short at the semi-final stage.
Belnaleck, judging by their exceptional quarter-final dismissal of Dundrum at Páirc Esler, have to be viewed as potential provincial champions.
Certainly they have every reason to be optimistic that they can reach the decider.
A major bonus for them will be the return of Kane Connor who had to sit out the Newry game as he served a one match suspension.
Going into the Newry game the absence of the pivotal Connor was a distinct dampener, but Belnaleck shrugged off that deficit and produced an outstanding team display to chisel out a comprehensive win.
Because of that performance there will be firm belief that a final ticket can be secured.
Belnaleck have a significant physical presence, always a decided asset.
Manning the central defensive slots against Dundrum were the Cullen brothers, Lee and Che, and they marshalled this sector exceptionally well, not just because of their physical presence, but with their senior inter-county experience coming into play.
Team management will have a selection headache as the returning Connor has generally operated at number six and presumably he will be allocated that familiar role which would leave one of the Cullen brothers moving further up the park to further bolster midfield.
One of the most impressive contributions against the Down champions was served up by the youthful Darragh McGurn who put in an exceptionally hard working shift and his determined running caused enormous problems for the stretched Dundrum defence.
A performance on similar lines on Sunday would go a long way to inspiring a Belnaleck victory.
If the McMurrough’s have power and potency in their defence, midfield and half forward line, their full forward spearhead is distinctly different in character.
Here target man Ciaran McBrien is enjoying a terrific spell of form. Quick, mobile and always available for the ball, McBrien with his half a dozen points in the quarter-final was a massive figure for Belnaleck.
If the ammunition is supplied to him then the scores will be delivered. They are far from a one man band though, with corner forward Bryan Owens of similar calibre and Joe Heavey also a heavy scorer.
Opponents Doire Trasna claimed their semi-final ticket with a 4-9 to 0-10 victory over Armagh’s Ballyhegan at the Athletic Grounds.
That game was however a shade closer than the 11 point winning margin would suggest. The Armagh side fluffed a penalty and also hit the woodwork while Doire Trasna’s four goals came in two snap spells in each half.
Still they are a side who will come into the game with a strong belief that they can advance and they have shown they can make their goal chances count.
Big performances then demanded of Belnaleck defenders Cullen, Connor and wing half Ronan Quigley to stifle this threat, big performances needed also from middle third figures, Dermot Lewsley and Dwayne McNulty.
And this can lay the foundation and ensure a steady supply of ball into the razor sharp McBrien and Owens.
Belnaleck will have derived enormous belief from their admirable showing in the quarter-final, a repeat of that both collectively and individually, would make the Erne champions an exceptionally hard team to deny.
History beckons for the McMurrough’s in this curtain raiser at Clones.
Ulster JFC semi-final
Belnaleck v Doire Trasna
Sunday, Clones, 12.15pm

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