CJ keeps Lenny waiting
St Gall’s manager Lenny Harbinson and his Clontibret counterpart Declan Brennan share a similar sense of apprehension as they prepare for Sunday’s Ulster Club football championship semi-final at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh (2.30pm).
While Harbinson is anxious that C J McGourty will show no ill-effects from his recent broken thumb injury and that Colin Brady will recover in time from a troublesome back injury, Brennan’s concerns centre on the well-being of John Paul Mone, Collie Greehan and Conor McManus.
McManus was only passed fit at the eleventh last Sunday to face Dromore against whom he landed four points while Mone — who underwent surgery just three weeks ago — made a telling contribution as an impact substitute.
Greehan, a key figure in the side, now has a hamstring injury which threatens his involvement on Sunday, making it an anxious time for Clontibret.
Harbinson, whose team have already defeated Cavan Gaels and Pearse Og in the competition, recognises that Clontibret will be a much tougher test.
“They are experienced, physical and skilful and that’s a good combination of qualities.
“This is a massive game for us no matter what way you look at it,” says the St Gall’s boss.
Brennan is approaching the game with some trepidation and makes no bones about his worries.
“When you have players like Conor McManus and John Paul Mone just playing their way back to full fitness, you would like to think they could do so in rather less high-profile matches.
“They both could have been doing with more time in which to be fully prepared but we must go with what is in front of us,” says Brennan.
In overcoming fancied Tyrone champions Dromore last week-end, Clontibret set down a marker that they are well equipped to land the provincial accolade.
While the donations from McManus and Mone were a bonus, the form of this year’s Monaghan captain Vincent Corey, Paul McGuigan and Dessie Mone are other important elements in their ongoing progress.
McGuigan was particularly impressive against Dromore but admits that Clontibret will now have to find a higher gear against St Gall’s.
“They have maybe half-a-dozen players who did very well with Antrim this year so there is a good deal of experience there.
“Besides, they won the Ulster Club title a few years ago and are well accustomed to playing in matches of this importance,” says McGuigan.
If Kevin Niblock’s ankle problems allow him to fulfil his anticipated role as a substitute up front, St Gall’s may benefit from his silken touches in the closing stages.
However, manager Harbinson is hopeful that he may not require the assistance of the player who was sprung from the bench on a regular basis by Antrim manager Liam Bradley this year.