By Niall Gartland
BRÍDÍNÍ Óga lost the Ulster Junior Championship final back in 2017 to Cavan side Crosserlough, and five years later, they have the chance to make amends when they face Granemore this weekend.
The circumstances are slightly different this time around – in a good way. They didn’t actually win anything in Antrim to progress to the provincial stage back in 2017 (they qualified by default as Loughgiel, who defeated them in the Antrim Intermediate final, weren’t permitted to enter two competitions).
This time around, they got over the line of a tough encounter against Portglenone, and they’ve kept up their good form and are now only 60 minutes away from taking the Ulster Intermediate title back to Glenravel.
Their manager Rodney Kerr, a native of the club, said: “It was the first time we’ve ever won the Antrim Intermediate title. We’ve been in Ulster once before, but we didn’t qualify as champions. We progressed into Ulster as Loughgiel weren’t allowed to at the time, because they were competing in the Ulster Senior Championship.”
Brídíní Óga have had to wait a month for their date with destiny as a result of an appealed game on the other side of the draw, and Kerr said it’s difficult arranging challenge games at this time of year.
“Trying to get challenge games at this stage is a nightmare to be honest as we don’t have lights on our own pitch. Trying to get a pitch, as well as somebody to play against, has been very difficult. I must’ve rung about a dozen different clubs last week for a pitch to play Jordanstown. We finally got sorted thanks to the Bellaghy club.”
They’re a fiercely committed group of camogs, epitomised by sisters Laoise and Maria McKenna, who will line out this weekend despite spending most of their time based in Galway.
Kerr said: “The girls train really hard and there seems to be a better buzz at training with every passing week. Laoise is our county player and is now living in Galway, she does her own training and we always trust her to get it done. She’s a Brídíní Oga girl through and through, she’s still involved with Antrim is well and she’s not sure how long she’ll stay in Galway. Her sister travels as well.”
On the sideline, Kerr is joined by coach Aidan McKeown, former Antrim camogie manager, Derry boss Martin Coulter, and club stalwart Malachy McToal. They’ll have their thinking caps on this week preparing for their winner-takes-all clash against Armagh senior champions Granemore.
“I’ve gone to see Granemore and they’re very determined, they get stuck in. We certainly won’t get anything easy from them, and they’ve a few Keady girls playing with them. From watching them against Crosserlough they seem to be strong around the middle of the field so that’s something we’re going to have to match if we’re going to win the game.”
There’s a strong overlap with the Con Magees, Glenravel side that won the Intermediate Football title this year, with 13 players on both teams. Kerr says both clubs are strongly intertwined.
“We’re the same club effectively, the same changing rooms, pitch etc, so we’re all rowing in behind together.”