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Dunloy out to show footballing class at St Paul's event

 

Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

The St Paul's minor football tournament takes centre stage in Ulster as the GAA activity moves into semi-hibernation once the Ulster club final was played last weekend.

It might be only at the preliminary round stage, but the meeting of Antrim champions Dunloy and Derry's Bellaghy has the potential to become something special.

The fact that Dunloy is here is remarkable. A hurling stronghold and Antrim senior county champions only last year, they have been making serious inroads with the football arm of the club too, no doubt aided by the state of the art indoor facility they enjoy at the club grounds.

They reached this stage two years ago before suffering an early exit to Burren, but picked up a few things along the way in terms of experience.

By the time it came to play this year's county final against St Gall's, they blew the lads from Milltown Row away on a 1-17 to 1-8 scoreline.

Bellaghy are managed by Damian Cassidy, the Derry 1993 All-Ireland winner, who also has enjoyed huge success in recent years while managing Clonoe in Tyrone and Cargin in Antrim, winning this year's county title, so he will have plenty of information on the opposition by the time this game gets going tomorrow at 1pm.

The first round game between Oliver Plunketts of Cavan and Ballyholland of Down will take place at the grounds of Colaiste Feirste at 4pm.

A curious statistic emerging from this tie is that each of these sides' management teams have played in the St Paul's tournament themselves.

Ballyholland, who defeated Burren in the Down county final, are managed by Matthew Shields who competed in the 1995 edition, losing out to eventual winners The Loup.

Oliver Plunketts are an amalgamation side between Cavan Gaels and Cornafean, and are managed by Enda Crowe who played for the Cavan Gaels side beaten in the 1991 final by Bellaghy.

Elsewhere, Donegal's Red Hugh's are in action in the All-Ireland quarter-final when they face Edinburgh's Dunedin Connolly's in Letterkenny tomorrow, with the throw-in at 1pm.

Dunedin Connollys got past Neasden Gaels - complete with Down star Connaire Harrison in their line-up - last month on a 3-12 to 2-12 scoreline, Ryan O'Hare hitting the decisive last minute penalty for the flying Scotsmen.

With a run to the final where they beat Limavady Wolfhounds 1-11 to 1-9 in the decider after a stirring comeback, the Donegal side will be expected to squeeze through.

Monaghan club side Emmet Óg - an amalgamation of Aghabog and Eire Óg, the junior champs last year - are in the All-Ireland ladies' Intermediate final this weekend, when they take on Clontarf at Dublin's Parnell Park tonight, with a 7.30pm start.

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