Lisbellaw hurlers will take on London’s St Gabriel’s in Ruislip on Sunday. The Fermanagh champions clinched the provincial crown after a win in the Ulster quarter final over Donegal side Burt. They then went on to seal an eleven point win over C?chullains from Armagh before beating a fancied Cloughmills from Antrim in the final, with two goals to spare.
Now the challenge takes them to St Gabriel’s in London, to the club best known as the Wembley club. The club celebrated its 50th anniversary last year and has traditionally had strong links with County Galway.
Indeed it was a Galway man, John Grealish, who helped St Gabriel’s beat Kilburn Gaels in the London County final back on October 7, with a goal in the last minute of the game. St Gabriel’s had eight players on the London panel this year so they’ve a wealth of experience in their side.
Their players are mainly from Galway, with a sizeable contingent from Cork, Clare and Kilkenny. Their main talisman is Martin Finn from Cork. The full forward has been London’s best hurler for the past six or seven years. He was named GPA Nicky Rackard Player of the Year in 2011 and could certainly ask some questions of Lisbellaw’s defence.
Another player that is a vital component in the St Gabriel’s set-up is Brian Costello. The Galway man has been solid at full back for both his club and for London. This year he was awarded a GPA All-Star for his contribution to the London Christy Ring winning team. In addition to the All-Star he was named Christy Ring Hurler of the Year.
Costello has played inter-county hurling with Galway’s minor, under-21, intermediate and senior teams, having captained the intermediate team in 2008. He was a member of the Galway senior panel as recently as 2009. He will steady the full back line and players like Sean Corrigan and Declan McGarry will need to be on form to find a route through.
Lisbellaw have been averaging at least three goals per game during the Ulster campaign and even broke through for five goals against Burt, in Brewster Park. St Gabriel’s have a strong keeper in their ranks too. Aidan Ryan has played senior hurling for Galway and he will captain the team on Sunday.
Fermanagh have fire power up front and they have shown their ability to take their scores when the opportunities present themselves. Brothers Sean and Ciaran Corrigan at corner forward both bagged goals in the Ulster final. Along with Declan McGarry at full forward, all three netted against Cloughmills and they’ll be looking for more of the same this weekend.
Captain Ryan Bogue and John Duffy will need to win the midfield battle against Enda Cooney and Neil Rodgers. Duffy landed seven points, 0-06 from frees, in the Ulster final and much will be expected from both men on Sunday if Lisbellaw are going to progress.
There are doubts over Niall Carson and Daniel Teague, both are carrying ligament injuries and late fitness tests will determine whether they’ll be included in the starting 15.
Carson and Teague occupied the corner back positions in the provincial final and they’ll be pivotal in nullifying the threat of a St Gabriel’s full-forward line which includes Matt Fitzsimons and John Grealish.
St Gabriel’s have never made it past a semi-final stage, despite winning 15 London County championships. Lisbellaw will be hoping to cut short their aspirations this year as well.