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Finucane aims to Lord it in Antrim decider

 

Title drive: goalkeeper and Belfast Lord Mayor John Finucane is hoping to lead Lamh Dhearg to Antrim Championship glory on Sunday
Title drive: goalkeeper and Belfast Lord Mayor John Finucane is hoping to lead Lamh Dhearg to Antrim Championship glory on Sunday
Title drive: goalkeeper and Belfast Lord Mayor John Finucane is hoping to lead Lamh Dhearg to Antrim Championship glory on Sunday
John Campbell

By John Campbell

John Finucane is proud to be Belfast's first citizen in his role as Lord Mayor.

But on Sunday the former Antrim goalkeeper is hoping to be the first man up to the rostrum to take delivery of the Antrim Senior Football Championship trophy when he leads his club Lamh Dhearg against reigning title-holders Erin's Own, Cargin in the final at Corrigan Park.

For long-serving club stalwart Finucane, the match will be a particularly special occasion. Two years ago he participated in the celebrations when Lamh Dhearg were crowned champions, and now he is seeking a repeat of those jubilations, although his team could not have asked for a more demanding build-up to the decider.

On three occasions within 10 days his side locked horns with Roger Casements, Portglenone before they finally came out on top, and while Finucane accepts that there were "tired bodies" after Monday night's second replay, he is confident that the side will be firing on all cylinders come Sunday.

"Portglenone showed in the first two games that they were always going to come back at us, but in the third game, thanks chiefly to two great goals from Paddy Cunningham, we were able to hold them off and come out on top," says Finucane.

His first task in the immediate aftermath of the game was to ensure that his diary was cleared for Sunday.

"There is never any real conflict of duties between my role as Lord Mayor and skipper of Lamh Dhearg," smiles Finucane. "In any event, the lads keep me well grounded. The fact that we are in another county final is brilliant, and the challenge for us now is to go out and win it against what is a very good Cargin side."

Finucane admits that he has become accustomed to the jibes such as 'Go on Lord Mayor, put it over' when he goes up to take a 45.

"But our dressing-room is like any other in the country. As soon as you go in there, everybody is equal, no one is any better than anyone else. There's a great spirit and bond there, and this is what has taken us to where we are now," reveals Finucane.

With Cunningham, the Murray brothers Ryan and Conor, Declan Lynch and Michael Herron providing abundant experience, Finucane is confident that they can meet the test that Cargin - with Tony Scullion, the McCann brothers Michael and Tomás, Michael Magill and Justin Crozier to the fore - will provide.

Meanwhile, Tyrone and Armagh may be arch rivals but right now they are bonded by 'problems' that are certainly not of an unpleasant nature.

When Trillick met Coalisland in the Tyrone semi-final on Sunday, Plunkett Park, Pomeroy was packed to the rafters with a two-mile tailback of cars on the approach to the village from Dungannon.

And when Errigal Ciaran and Carrickmore met in the other semi-final later that same afternoon at O'Neill Park, Dungannon, the fans were again out in force, many indeed having made the short hop from the earlier game.

No wonder Tyrone county board officials were delighted, and their satisfaction will be shared by their Armagh counterparts on Saturday when their semi-finals will be played as part of a double bill at the Athletic Grounds, with Ballymacnab and Granemore meeting first (5.00pm) and Crossmaglen Rangers facing Maghery in the other tie (7.00pm).

Meanwhile, the overall Ulster senior county football championship is as follows:

Antrim: Final: Sunday : Erin's Own, Cargin v Lamh Dhearg (Corrigan Park 3.30)

Armagh: Saturday's Semi-Finals (Athletic Grounds): Granemore v Ballymacnab (5.00), Crossmaglen v Maghery (7.00)

Cavan: Final: Sunday October 13: Castlerahan v Ramor Utd (Kingspan Breffni)

Derry: Semi-Finals, Saturday: O'Donovan Rossa v Banagher (Owenbeg 6.30), Sunday: Slaughtneil v Glen (Owenbeg 4.30)

Donegal: Semi-Finals: Sunday: St Eunan's v Naomh Conaill (Ballybofey 1.30), Kilcar v Gaoth Dobhiar (Ballybofey 3.30)

Down: Final: Sunday October 13: Kilcoo v St Peter's, Warrenpoint (Pairc Esler 3.30)

Fermanagh: Derrygonnelly Harps already crowned champions

Monaghan: Semi-Finals: Saturday: Clontibret v Latton (2.00), Scotstown v Ballybay (4.30 both Clones)

Tyrone: Final: Sunday October 13: Trillick v Errigal Ciaran (Healy Park, Omagh 3.30).

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