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Force of Gaels will be tested to the full by St Eunan's

 

By Declan Bogue

If the semi-final pairings in the St Paul's Tournament show us one thing, it is that 'big-town' teams will always be in a stronger position to succeed at this level if they have their grassroots right.

The first of this year's semi-finals take place today when Enniskillen Gaels face the daunting task of tackling St Eunan's of Letterkenny.

St Eunan's, under joint manager Brian McGeehin, have already taken care of last year's winners Burren, before belatedly defeating Clann Eireann last week in the game that was rescheduled following the heavy snowfall.

That game actually went to extra-time and, given that they played the preliminary round, they are the most battle-hardened team left.

"It was a really hard, tough game. I suppose from the neutrals' point of view it would have been an exciting game," deadpanned McGeehin.

Enniskillen Gaels have poured a lot of energy into developing the youth side of the club in the last decade after the decline of their great side of the late '90s and early '00s.

The goalkeeper from that time, Brendan Dooris, is now the minor manager and is keenly aware that they faced today's opponents two years ago in the Paul McGirr Tournament, losing 4-10 to 0-8.

The Gaels players have matured from there, with Eoin Beacom following his brother Cathal into the county training panel for example. That game takes place today, with throw-in at 12 noon at St Paul's Complex.

Young men in Draperstown and west Belfast will have to resist the temptations of Christmas Day as local hopefuls O'Donovan Rossa, managed by Hugh McGettigan, face Ballinascreen of Derry in the second semi-final, hosted on St Stephen's Day at St Paul's, throw-in at 1:30pm.

The Belfast boys' chances are reduced with a suspension for Tiernan Murphy, dismissed in the last round win over Killaney of Monaghan.

Ballinascreen come in under the radar, but by taking out Errigal Ciaran - with their raft of several under-17 All-Ireland winners - they have emerged as dark horses for the competition.

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