BY CHRIS MCNULTY
SATURDAY 7TH JULY 2012, 7.30pm
Naomh Ultan v Red Hughs
DUNKINEELY hosts the opening Junior A Championship tussle tonight when the local Naomh Ultan welcome Red Hughs to town.
Naomh Ultan, managed this term by Joe Kennedy, are up against it against in-form Red Hughs, but they were given a real shot in the arm with an away win to Naomh Colmcille on Sunday. Naomh Ultan rocked the Newtown side as a four-goal blitz from Adrian Nesbitt (2), Aiden Duddy and Colin McNicholas shot them to a precious win.
Those players, along with Alan Lyons, Cian Kennedy and Dermot Gallier, will be central if Naomh Ultan are to take anything into the return leg at The Cross.
1992 All-Ireland winner Martin Shovlin has appeared for Naomh Ultan in recent weeks, but he is likely to be kept for the Junior B team in the Championship and is not expected to play here.
His ‘92 colleague Donal Reid is in charge of Red Hughs – and they head south with a rich recent run of form filling their sails. Although they lost county minor panelist Gary Kelly to a broken collar bone, they are unbeaten in their last six games and are on the back of a five-game winning streak following victories over Termon, Naomh Columba, Burt, Downings and Aodh Ruadh.
With Calvin Bradley on form and Damian Browne continuing to keep the scoreboards of the county ticking, Red Hughs are capable of drawing first blood.
Verdict: Red Hughs
SUNDAY 8TH JULY 2012, 3pm
Milford v Naomh Padraig Lifford
LAST year’s beaten finalists, Naomh Padraig start back on the long road to hopeful Junior A glory again – and the border side start out as favourites when they head to Moyle View Park in Milford on Sunday.
Sean McConnell’s side remain firmly in the hunt for promotion from Division 4 as they currently occupy third spot in the Division.
They suffered a surprise defeat to Finn Valley rivals Convoy last weekend – but will still be fancied in this one.
Nigel Black’s Milford have recovered from a slow star and they have proven tricky to beat on home soil. If Christopher and Luke Barrett, David and Pauric Curley, and county minor Cathal McGettigan can find some form the home side will be a tough nut to crack.
The black and amber will look to the likes of the powerful Lorny Crossan to drive their challenge, with Shane Meehan, Conor Catterson and Shane Gallagher other key men in attack, while the place kicking of Gary McGirr – usually deadly reliable from anything inside the ‘45 – will also be crucial to their cause.
Naomh Padraig to have an ever-so-slight edge.
Verdict: Naomh Padraig, Lifford
Letterkenny Gaels v Robert Emmets
DIVISION 4 table toppers Robert Emmets will be one of the favourites for Junior A glory this year. Back under the tutelage of Dessie McFeely, the Emmets have been in fine form this year, dropping just three points in their 11 games, posting a healthy 19 points tally to sit at the summit.
McFeely might have lost Niall McConnell and several other players to emigraton, but his side has still been in excellent form.
They carry the favourites tag into this game with the Gaels, who have shown some promise following last year’s underage success. The likes of Conor McBrearty and Ciaran Cannon have graduated seamlessly to the senior ranks and they are among the players who’ll need to rise to the occasion if the Gaels are to cause an upset.
If they are to do that, they’ll need to find someone to keep the scores of both Johnny McLaughlin and Micael Lafferty down – something all sides in Division 4 have trouble with. And with Christopher Bryson and Marcus Curran supplementing, it’s hard to see anything but an away win.
In their League meeting at The Glebe, the Emmets came away with a landslide 2-12 to 0-5 win. This one could be tighter, but the advantage remains with McFeely’s men.
Verdict: Robert Emmets