The 2019 Michael Murphy Sports and Leisure Intermediate A championship has been as tight and as entertaining a stuggle between some very evenly matched squads as has been seen for many a year. The struggle for supremacy in the semi-final between Cloich Cheann Fhaola and Aodh Ruadh Beal Átha Seannaigh was characteristic of this campaign. Extra time failed to separate the sides in Glenfin and the replay in Convoy looked to be heading the same way until Aodh Ruadh hit the front in the dying minutes of added time only to be gazumpted by a late late Cloughaneely goal to lose out 2-11 to 0-15 – it was 0-14 apiece in Convoy last Saturday.
At the Press Night for the Intermediate finals, directly after the game in Convoy, MC for the evening Charlie Collins quipped that Cloich Cheann Fhaola had staggered their way into the final. He was not just talking about the epic with Aodh Ruadh. As the only Division 1 side in the competition opponents worked extra hard to lift their performance against Cloughaneely. It was late scores that got them through their quarter-final against Division 3’s Naomh Colmcille and a late score also underpinned their win at home to Naomh Bríd in the Group stages and in their draw with Red Hughs in Killygordon.
Naomh Naille’s path to the final was equally strewn with nail-biting finishes to tight games. There was a point between the sides in Killybegs when they squeezed past Naomh Bríd in their semi-final, 1-9 to 1-8. There was also little separating the sides in their 1-18 to 3-10 victory over Naomh Columba in the quarter-final. In the Group stages Nauls also had just a point to spare, 1-8 played 1-7, against Downings and they lost by a point to Aodh Ruadh before finishing with an important, but emphatic win, against Naomh Muire at The Banks in their final group game.
It all suggests a tight and hard fought contest in the final on Sunday, The game in Ballybofey throws-in at 4.00. The referee will be Fanad Gael’s Mark Dorrian. Mark is only 26, and a member of An Garda Siochána, but with a lot of experience in recent years. He will need it in this his first Intermediate final if the pattern of tight results that has characterised 2019 games continues – and it probably will.