Saturday 5th March
Barrett Sports Lighting Dr Mc Kenna Cup Final (7.00pm, Extra Time if necessary)
Derry v Tyrone at Athletic Grounds, Armagh
The 2011 Barrett Sports Lighting Dr McKenna Cup like all other facets of life, suffered as a result of the extremely cold and frosty conditions that were endured over the past two months. Fixtures were postponed and venues were changed but we now find ourselves at the final stage, albeit four weeks later than anticipated. The nine counties and three university sides are ever more dependent on this competition, simply for the competitive environment that it provides ahead of the Allianz League and the Sigerson Cup respectively. The three university sides were extremely competitive once again in their respective sections.
In Section A, 2009 & 2010 winners Dún na nGall were joined by Tír Eoghain, Fear Manach and UUJ. The Red Hand County topped the group by winning all three matches, despite being pushed all the way by each of their opponents. In fact, their 1-18 to 2-11 over University of Ulster, Jordanstown was possibly one of the best games in this year’s competition. Fear Manach new boss John O’Neill will be relatively content with their three outings with the highlight being a notable victory over Dún na nGall in their final group game, while Adrian McGuckian and Barney McAleenan will be extremely happy with the performances of their college side in all three encounters. Jim McGuinness has expressed his disappointment at his county’s preparations ahead of the Allianz Football League, but he would have gained some knowledge from their three games in the Dr McKenna Cup.
In Section B, Doíre were the form team with three victories over An Cabhán, Muineachan and QUB. They notched up a combined total of 4-48 which is a remarkable tally at this time of the year. John Brennan will not be getting carried away with this early season form but no doubt he will be pleased with what he has witnessed so far in the competition. An Cabhán showed some early season promise as they recorded victories over Muineachán and QUB to qualify for the semi finals as the best runner-up, while QUB defeated Muineachan in the other fixture in this section.
In Section C, Aontroim topped the group with two wins and a draw against An Dún after a strong second half comeback at Casement Park. An Dún and Ard Mhacha played out a thrilling game at Pairc Esler in Round 1 with the Orchard County emerging victorious on a 2-15 to 3-11 scoreline. St Marys finished the group stages with a fine 1-16 to 2-07 victory over Ard Mhacha at the Athletic Grounds to conclude the action in a very competitive group.
The Semi Finals saw Doire face Aontroim at Celtic Park and Tir Eoghain take on An Cabhan at Brewster Park, Enniskillen. Doíre aided by two first half goals emerged victorious on a scoreline of 2-14 to 0-14. In the other semi final, Tír Eoghain defeated An Cabhan by 2-11 to 0-14 to set up another derby with the Oak Leaf County, their second of the year already.
The Barrett Sports Lighting Dr McKenna Cup has become known as an arena for all 12 teams to unearth new talent for the various challenges ahead. The irony with the 2011 competition is that the best performers have been the experienced campaigners. Players such as Brian McGuigan, Ryan McMenamin, Sean Cavanagh, Paddy Bradley, Gerard O’Kane, Paddy Bradley and Conleith Gilligan have been to the fore and long may it continue, as we wait in anticipation for another thrilling contest between these neighbouring counties.