By Niall Gartland
THERE’S a bite in the air, but Granemore boss Connor Devlin says there’s something special about preparing for an Ulster final clash at this time of year.
The Ulster Junior Championship title is up for grabs in this weekend’s clash against Brídíní Oga of Antrim, and Granemore haven’t pared things back after claiming the county championship with a super win over the standard-bearers of recent seasons, Ballymacnab.
It’s been some year for the club as a whole – their men’s team reached the Armagh Senior Championship final for the first time in their history, losing well to Crossmaglen – and it’s had an invigorating effort on the entire community, says Devlin.
“Preparations have gone well in the lead up to the final. The week after the Crosserlough game was mainly focused towards recovery as it was a very physical game that went to extra-time.
“While the weather is cold and pitches are heavier at this time of year, it’s just a great feeling to be still involved.”
“Winning Armagh was very special. The girls have competed in six of the last seven county finals which sums up what these girls are about really, they work incredibly hard and love it
“The last three finals haven’t gone our way but thankfully this time we got it done. It has been brilliant for the whole community who have been so supportive to the team throughout the year.
“For a small parish to have both senior camogs and senior men’s footballers reach their respective county finals was a massive achievement and testament to the great work that is going on within the club.”
Injuries to key personnel hammered their chances over the past few years, but Granemore have made big improvements with Rachael Merry and Jordan Carr back on the field, while Ciara Hill has begun her rehabilitation after undergoing surgery for a cruciate injury a fortnight ago.
“Last year we lost Jordan to a cruciate ligament tear and Rachael’s hamstring detached from the bone. To see those girls back on the pitch again is amazing but to be honest I’m not surprised. They spent everyday in the gym working tirelessly to get back out on the pitch and have been rewarded for that single minded effort.”
On Ciara Hill, he said: “All being well we will see her back out on the pitch next season doing what she does best.”
Antrim side Brídíní Óga stand in their way of the provincial crown. The Glenravel-based side are a strong outfit and claimed the Intermediate title in the county back in October with victory over Portglenone.
Devlin commented: “They are Antrim champions and are champions for a reason. They are a fantastic side with top players who have represented Antrim at all age groups and levels.
“We know we will be underdogs and will have to at our best to compete with them. We are really looking forward to the challenge.”