By Shaun Casey
THE last time Armagh claimed the Nickey Rackard Cup, back in 2012, Paul Gaffney and Declan Coulter were teammates in the orange and white.
This weekend however, Gaffney could be the one given the task of limiting his former colleague’s influence on proceedings as Middletown and Setanta battle it out for a place in the Ulster Intermediate Championship final.
Coulter moved to Donegal in 2017 and has been a leading light for the Tir Chonaill champions ever since.
“Decky’s still going and he’s still one of their main threats up front,” said Middletown defender Gaffney. “I played many years with Decky on the county team as well and he’s still pulling the strings for them.
“We’d know a few of their players from playing county as well, there’s a right few of them that are involved in the Donegal setup.
“So, we would be aware of a few of their players, although it’s been a while since I’ve been playing at county level so I wouldn’t have a whole pile of insight into them really.”
Middletown reached the decider last season and narrowly lost to Liatroim by six points. A win this weekend will see them return to that stage as they search for their first Ulster crown since 2017.
“It still hurts, you do always think about it and the year before we lost out to Banagher well,” added Gaffney, speaking of last year’s defeat.
“You always want to go out and try to better whatever it was you dud last year, and this year is no different for us. But it’s certainly no easy task, there’s four teams left in this competition and there could be a puck of a ball between any of the four teams.”
Kieran Hughes’ side got their provincial campaign up and running with a handsome away victory against Inniskeen as they travelled home with a 17-point victory.
This time of year, hurling is a different sport explained Gaffney, although he’s honoured to be still togging out in November.
“It was a good win, the scoreline maybe flattered us a wee bit but it was a good start to our Ulster campaign,” continued Gaffney.
“Inniskeen are a tough, dogged team so we were lucky enough to get through.
“Niall Arthurs wasn’t playing for them so that was a big miss for them, he would be one of their main scorers, so we were fortunate that they didn’t have him that day.
“It’s winter hurling so you really don’t know what you’re coming up against, it’s like a different game all together at this time of year.
“You’re so used to the dry ball and the ball skipping into the forward line, but winter hurling can come down to anything, it can be a lottery at the end of the day.
“There’s a lot of dirty ball and a lot of breaks and rucks, it might not be the best style of hurling but it’s good to get out and good to still be involved.”