Managers plot next moves in fascinating IFC race

The semi-final pairings for this year’s Mulryan Construction Intermediate Football Championship were confirmed this week with the mouth-watering prospect of St. Faithleach’s against Castlerea St. Kevin’s, and last year’s beaten finalists St. Dominic’s facing Clann na nGael. We’ve been speaking to the four managers…

St. Dominic’s’ manager, Tomás Gilleran, described his team’s performance in their 2-11 to 2-3 win over Kilbride last weekend as “satisfactory” – but knows they face a stiff challenge in the shape of Clann na nGael in the last four.

“Kilbride had us under pressure in the first quarter and the stats will show they had a lot of chances. It was a tricky day for football and the timing of our goals was crucial. It gave us a bit of a cushion going in at half-time and that allowed us to control it a bit more in the second half”,” he said.

“I would describe our performance as satisfactory but we need to find another gear or two. We’ve played competitive games this year against all the remaining teams in the championship and drawn against them all, including Clann. Each of the teams will feel they have a chance at this stage,” he said.

The St. Dominic’s manager was keen to move on from the heartbreak of 2020 when the Knockcroghery men lost out to Oran in the Intermediate decider, but believes the experience has benefitted his side this term.

“There are no guarantees for us…anything that was achieved last year was forgotten about on New Year’s Eve last year. We’ve gained from that experience and it has added some mettle for the high-pressure championship games,” he said.

“We’re under no illusions in terms of the challenge we face against Clann na nGael in the semi-final. Both teams will be eyeing this up and I’d see it as a 50-50 game. We’ll see what the next couple of weeks bring”.

Meanwhile, Clann na nGael manager, Niall Shine, was happy with his side’s convincing 4-13 to 1-11 win over Creggs, particularly with how his players responded when under pressure.

“We’re happy enough that we got the big breaks last weekend. We got two goals before half-time which turned a one-point cushion into a seven-point one,” he said.

“There were moments…Creggs hit the crossbar in that first half and responded and then when they got their goal in the second half we came back quickly with a goal of our own. A lot went our way”.

Clann seem to have hit form at the right time but Shine is happy enough with the ‘underdogs’ tag ahead of their showdown with St. Dominic’s.

“We have a lot of momentum behind us after the Junior Championship final,” he said. “We played Dominic’s the week after and we put a lot into that performance. It’s certainly not a case of being happy to be in a semi-final because we’d expect to be there with the panel we have.

“St. Dominic’s will be the favourites…but we’re certainly not just going there to make up the numbers,” he said.

On the other side of the draw, St. Faithleach’s manager, Wally Burke, said his side’s 0-17 to 1-13 extra-time win over Fuerty in last Sunday’s quarter-final in Strokestown was a “battle royal”, which should galvanise them ahead of their last-four meeting with Castlerea St. Kevin’s.

“I’d say it was great entertainment if you were a neutral but not much fun if you were standing on the sideline!

“The first half was 50-50 but we probably had more control in the second half. I thought we had it won when Diarmuid put over a monster free but they came back and it was tit for tat in extra-time,” he said.

“It should give us confidence going into the semi-final because Fuerty are no pushovers by any stretch of the imagination, but semi-finals are different games because they are usually tight and cagey”.

The Ballyleague outfit will have to plan for their semi-final showdown against Castlerea St. Kevin’s without three long-term absentees in the shape of Brian Murtagh, Cian Glennon and Darragh Hussey, and Walter admits it won’t be easy.

“Castlerea are an up and coming team and they have been building nicely over the last few years. I see Fintan Kelly is back playing well too and looking fit. Fintan is a player I had when working with John Evans with the Roscommon seniors. They also had a good few involved with the Roscommon U-20s this year and lads with plenty of senior experience too,” he said.

On a positive note, key players are coming into form. “It’s good to see Diarmuid Murtagh playing well (scored 0-12 including the winner against Fuerty) and Ciaráin (Murtagh) is also doing well in a new role, playing as a conductor,” he said.

Castlerea St. Kevin’s ran out 2-12 to 0-13 winners over Éire Óg in Frenchpark last Saturday evening, and manager Jason Reilly said nothing is being taking for granted this year.

“It was a good win, we definitely learned our lesson from last year when Éire Óg gave us a good clipping. The lads have matured a lot since then and we are just taking each game as it comes,” he said.

Reilly is enjoying his first year at the helm, having previously been involved with Castlerea junior teams.

“It’s been interesting,” he laughs. “I’m just trying to keep the lads level-headed and we’ll see how we get on in the next couple of weeks. Each team poses its own challenge. Looking at St. Faithleach’s, Diarmuid Murtagh was on fire last weekend so I suppose we’ll have to come up with a way of keeping him quiet”.

Reilly says it’s all about collective effort this year in Castlerea: “I’m looking at the papers every week and seeing ‘teams of the week’ but we’re telling the lads that the only place they should be looking to put their name is on the walls of the clubhouse. That’s what will be remembered in the years to come”.

 IFC Semi-Final draw: St. Dominic’s v Clann na nGael; Castlerea St. Kevin’s v St. Faithleach’s on the weekend of October 9th and 10th.