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Ballymacnab lead final charge into bumper weekend



Game-changer: John Brennan

Game-changer: John Brennan

©INPHO/Margaret McLaughlin

Game-changer: John Brennan

A jam-packed weekend of county semi-finals across Ulster began last night in the Athletic Grounds when a late goal from substitute Pauric Gribben sent Ballymacnab into only their second ever Armagh Championship final as they beat Maghery on a 1-9 to 0-9 scoreline.

They now face the winners of the other semi-final tomorrow, between old foes Crossmaglen and Cullyhanna (Athletic Grounds, 5pm throw-in).

Ballymacnab will be hoping to do better than the 2011 final they lost 2-22 to 0-3 against Crossmaglen.

In recent times, noisy neighbours Cullyhanna have crept up on Rangers. An early sign was the drawn semi-final in 2010, with Cross edging the second game by a point before going on to win an All-Ireland Club title.

In 2016, though, the St Patrick's eventually got the upper hand with a last-minute goal to reach their first ever decider, one they lost to Maghery.

There is a mouth-watering tie in the Antrim senior semi-final with old foes Cargin and St Gall's meeting today at Corrigan Park, the throw-in at 4.30pm.

During the St Gall's dominance over the last decade, Cargin were the only team that were able to put it up to them, but when it really counted they were often found wanting.

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Bringing John Brennan in as manager changed all that a few years ago and they have another Derry man, Declan Cassidy, as their current boss. They beat champions Lamh Dhearg in the last round and will be confident heading into this one.

St Gall's are now managed by their former great Sean Kelly and they have fallen in their last two meetings with the Toome men. They are also battling a level of fatigue with some players involved in last weekend's Intermediate hurling final win.

Last year's finalists St John's are one hour away from making it back to the same stage when they face Creggan in Glenavy on Sunday at 4.30pm.

On league form, Creggan have already beaten St John's twice this season and the Corrigan Park men have also had to contend with serious hurling commitments, having produced a huge performance to draw with Ruairi Óg Cushendall in the county semi-final last weekend.

Derry will have new county champions, indeed, Ulster will have new football champions in 2018 with Slaughtneil's defeat to Coleraine midweek.

Their reward is a meeting with Ballinascreen, who have improved immensely under Liam Bradley since he took the reins during the season and it should be borne in mind that they appeared in last season's final. That semi-final is the second of the semi-finals double header on Sunday in Owenbeg, throwing in at 2.45pm.

The other semi-final is the curtain-raiser for the day at the same venue. Glen, Maghera, take on Lavey who are struggling with injuries ahead of this one.

In Donegal, there is a Saturday night semi-final between Glenties and Glenswilly, two team who have won a Championship in the last three years who meet in Ballybofey at 7pm.

The winners of that tie will face the victorious team from the Gaoth Dobhair - who scored a landmark eight goals in their last outing over Bundoran - against a dangerous looking Sean MacCumhaills (Ballybofey) side, that game taking place on Sunday in Letterkenny at 4.30pm.

In Cavan, Crosserlough meet Gowna in Ballina on Saturday at 5.00pm, and Lavey face Castlerahan at the same venue on Sunday at 4.30pm.

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