Saturday 21 April 2018

McGourty plays down final injury concerns

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

ST GALL'S sharpshooter CJ McGourty has scotched rumours that injury will force him to miss tomorrow's All-Ireland club SFC final against Kilmurry-Ibrickane.

The 21-year-old dual star had hip surgery a few years ago and said he may need more after a recent flare-up, but stressed "there's not a hope in the world of me missing this final".

That is great news for the west Belfast club as McGourty shot 1-9 in their extra-time semi-final defeat of Corofin and is one of the most talented forwards in the country.

When St Gall's lost the 2006 All-Ireland club final, McGourty was only 17, yet he came off the bench and scored two frees to force a grandstand finish from Salthill, who held on by a point.

In the past decade, propelled by a long unbeaten run at under-age level, St Gall's have become Antrim's superpower, despite being situated in an area which has 13 GAA clubs in the Falls Road alone. Yet county chairman John McSparron believes the whole county will be willing them to victory.

"You'll always have that small element of diehard lunatics that won't look outside their own club, but anyone in Antrim GAA who has a reasonable bone in their body will be right behind St Gall's," McSparron said.

He said the club's success -- they have won eight county senior football titles since 2001 -- has raised the bar for local clubs.

"St Gall's were unbeaten at minor and U-21 level for nearly eight years, which contributes to their senior domination recently. There has always been a very strong family element to St Gall's and that is probably the root of their great strength." And no one embodies that more than the McGourtys, who provide brothers Kevin, Kieran and Conor (CJ) to the starting 15.

Portumna, meanwhile, have made one change for the All-Ireland club hurling final. Niall Hayes returns to the No 10 shirt in place of Ciaran Ryan.

Portumna -- I Canning; A O'Donnell, E McEntee, O Canning; G Heagney, M Ryan, P Smith; L Smith, E Lynch; N Hayes, K Hayes, A Smith; D Hayes, J Canning, M Dolphin.

Irish Independent

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