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McGourty can be up to mark

By John Campbell

Conor McGourty will find himself a marked man on Boxing Day - and with good reason.

When the St Galls sharpshooter lines out with his team in the second semi-final of the Northern Bank Ulster Minor Club Tournament at the St Paul's complex, Shaw's Road, Belfast (1.30pm), he will be particularly well policed by a Cavan Gaels defence who are all too well aware that in the quarter-final the mercurial McGoury scored 2-9 of his side's 2-11 total in their win over Monaghan Harps.

Yet while St Galls can not only lean on McGourty's clinical finishing but can also rely on sterling centre-half-back Darren Harbinson, son of the former County player Lenny, Cavan Gaels themselves are hardly likely to be afflicted by inhibitions.

They are certainly no strangers to the journey to Belfast, having won their own county Minor title a record eight times in the last nine years - wins that ensured their passport into the Minor Club Tournament.

However, they have only won the Jimmy McConville cup once in that period (1999) and having sat out last year's competition, they showed in their quarter-final victory over a determined Castlewellan side they their appetite for success has been fully replenished.

In Niall Smith, Sean Higgins and Gerard Reilly they have a particularly skilful half-forward line - players well versed in converting half-chances.

But St Galls look to have all-round quality, particularly with McGourty being in such dynamic form.

It was not in the least surprising that he won the coveted Cormac McAnallen Young Achievers award at the recent Ulster GAA Writers banquet for his exploits at all levels throughout this year.

Indeed, he was introduced as a substitute in the AIB All Ireland senior Club final in which St Galls were beaten.

His 2-9 against Monaghan Harps has already convinced Cavan Gaels manager Finian Farrell that he will require curbing but the latter knows, too, that St Galls are not quite a one-player attack.

The winners will progress to the Northern Bank-sponsored Ulster final on New Year's Day when GAA President Nickey Brennan is expected to be on hand to present the winning captain with the Jimmy McConville Cup.

Tournament spokesman Billy McLarnon says: "Both St Galls and Cavan Gaels looked very impressive at the quarter-final stage and I have no doubt that the semi-final will be a cracking tie."

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