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Antrim county showdown a family affair for Nugents

 

By Declan Bogue

It will have been a house divided this week in the Nugent's.

The man of the house, Paddy, is manager of St John's as they face into their first Antrim county final since 2012 and aim for their first title since 1998.

The first name on his team sheet - if he does it numerically - is his son Padraig, the 'Johnnies' goalkeeper.

And the first thing Padraig will have been instructed on is to keep the kickouts away from his brother, Antrim player Domhnall, who will be at midfield for opposition Lamh Dhearg.

In the first Antrim final without St Gall's or Cargin since 1991, this is a novel and fresh pairing.

Whatever happens in Ahoghill tomorrow afternoon, there will be great rejoicing in either Whiterock or Hannahstown.

"Ourselves and Lamh Dhearg have had many a battle, thinking back to U21 a couple of years ago so both teams know each other very well," said Nugent this week.

"I have huge respect for the Lamhs' management, the way they have brought those lads on too. It's going to be a special final, we're just glad to be part of it."

St John's have reached the final the hard way, unquestionably. Their semi-final replay against Cargin went to extra-time last weekend at Glenavy.

They play a game of cautious containment, with corner-forwards Ciaran Johnston and Luke Pedan retreating into their defence to act as a double-sweeper team.

What might harm them most is the prospect of Nugent in the Lamh's midfield. St John's midfielder Simon McDonagh was dismissed on a straight red card against Cargin and his usual partner Ronan McCafferty was issued with a two-match ban arising out of his red from the drawn encounter.

There were whispers of an appeal in midweek but as things stand their midfield is decimated and they will have to rob their attack of Matthew Fitzpatrick to fill in here.

Under the management of Martin Lynch, Lamh Dhearg have a balanced look about them. Their Fermanagh import Ciaran Flaherty has settled in and is supported by the ball-carrying skills of Conor Murray, the movement of Ryan Murray and the finishing of the evergreen former Antrim captain, Paddy Cunningham; featuring in his sixth county final.

"We just set out at the start of the year to see where we could go and thankfully we have got to the final, but I do think we have been inconsistent up to now," said the St Mary's CBGS schoolteacher.

"We have played in fits and starts. We saw how dominant St John's were in both their games against Cargin, they were very well organised and well-drilled.

"They punished mistakes very quickly, so we need to be on top of our game if we are to beat them."

St John's

Lamh Dhearg

Antrim SFC Final:

Glenavy, Sunday, 3.15pm

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