The 2016 Tyrone Senior finalists, Coalisland Na Fianna, were the visitors to a mucky Harlequins on Sunday 28th January for St Brigid’s’ first game of the Ulster Senior League competition.
Coalisland fielded a strong side against a youthful Brigid’s selection that was without a number of key names from last year’s Antrim intermediate success, including Ronan McGrady (currently undergoing final preparations for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang), Kevy Gallagher (about to embark on a glorious post-GAA triathlon career), Ryan Daly and Enda Clarke, as well as the likes of Conor King, Ben Sinnott, and Finn McKernan, all of whom have studying and working commitments elsewhere. Tim “Give Him Your Jersey” McCrudden once again fell victim to Lady Luck’s cruel hand, and will hopefully be back from injury sooner rather than later.
However, the lack of such experienced names was counterbalanced by the welcome promotion to the senior squad of Peter King, Peter Henvey, Tom Dunford and Brogan Austin, all of whom acquitted themselves brilliantly at the older grade having made the step up from minor and under-20. Peter Cuthbert, a recent arrival from Cork, started in goal for the home side and also had a fine performance, kicking well from restarts and communicating effectively while not being at fault for any goals conceded.
St Brigid’s made an excellent start to the game, with Jack Dowling and Cathal Conway working particularly well in midfield and Joe McKeever excellent in defence alongside Brogan Austin, who was his usual placid, unobtrusive self and made sure to make his marker feel welcome in South Belfast at every opportunity. Inevitably, however, Coalisland came into the game and went a couple of points ahead – making better use of possession than the home side.
St Brigid’s hung in the game, however, and continued to do so throughout the rest of the match. Some costly early-season concentration lapses led to Na Fianna raising green flags, showing their quality with ruthless finishing. Despite this, St Brigid’s kicked some excellent scores through Dowling, James Smith and Peter Webb and kept on battling until the end.
All in all, a decent start to the season and something to build on in the weeks ahead.
Final score: St Brigids 0-9 Coalisland Na Fianna 3-7