Classy Críost Rí to overcome St Pat’s

WINNING the provincial title is the main objective for most team coaches, anything from there on is regarded as a bonus.

Not Críost Rí coach Mick Evans though. “In the bedlam that was our dressing room in Knocknagree on Sunday after we won the Irish

Examiner Corn Uí Mhuirí title, I managed to get a few words in”, said Evans.

“I asked the players to put the victory to one side and focus on next Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final against St Pat’s, Navan in Nenagh and, to a man, they readily agreed. We were back training on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and I could sense the mood of the players. There are two more peaks to climb and they won’t be found wanting tomorrow.

“The last time we won the Hogan Cup (All-Ireland football title) was in 1986 and I feel we have a team capable of emulating that feat. It’s going to be difficult against St Pats, who play with a typical Meath flavour, hard and fair, and we’ll have to produce another top class display to make the final.”

Corner-forward David Coughlan, who scored 1-2 last Sunday, is doubtful for the game. He suffered a dead leg late in the Munster final and, while he has been receiving treatment all week, is given little chance of being fit.

St Pat’s recently won their third Leinster title in five years when they defeated Knockbeg, Carlow in a game that went to extra-time before they emerged 0-11 to 0-8 winners.

Knockbeg included several members of the Laois All-Ireland minor team of 2003 but were caught in added time by a dogged St Pat’s side, coached by former Meath stalwart Colm O’Rourke. Cian Ward, Henry Finnegan, Shane O’Rourke, Stephen O’Toole and Ciaran Kenny will spearhead the Pats challenge, but Criost Rí get the vote on the strength of their marvellous display in the Munster final.

The second semi-final brings together St Mary’s, Galway and St Pat’s Dungannon in Markievicz Park tomorrow (2pm) with the Ulster champions favourites. According to team official Paddy Park, Mary’s are a very good side who knocked out St Jarleth’s and St Gerard’s, Mayo to reach this stage.

“Our captain Ciaran Donnelly is our only injury worry. He has his hand in plaster for the last two weeks after breaking a bone in his hand. The plaster came off on Thursday but I’m not sure if he will start tomorrow.

“Seven years ago we defeated Críost Rí in the semi-final and went on to win the title, beating St Gerard’s Mayo in the final. Hopefully we can repeat that feat but we cannot afford to look that far ahead. We’ll have to be at our very best to advance.”

St Pat’s have a number of outstanding players in Martin Murray, Shane O’Hagan, Gerard McCaughey and Paul Forker and with football in the county at an all time high can reach another All-Ireland final.

However, Mary’s won’t be any pushover. They denied champions St Jarlath’s a sixth Connacht title in a row and with six Galway minors in their side will be keen to reach their first All-Ireland final since losing the 1988 decider to St Mel’s.

Team mentor Michael Lee said his side are a bit on the young side but have plenty of football.

Mary’s are coached by former Galway stalwart Liam Sammon, who will be hoping county minors Garret Bradshaw, Greg Rogan, Conor Glynn, Gary Begley, Conor Bohan and David O’Connell can produce another display similar to the one that recently won them the Connacht title.

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