By Shaun Casey
IT’S been an extremely successful season for Craobh Rua and the Camlough hurlers will hope their good fortune continues into the New Year.
The back-to-back Armagh champions became the first ever team from the Orchard county to win the Ulster Junior Hurling Championship in December, having failed to do so at their first attempt in 2013.
They head to England on Sunday to take on All-British champions Fullen Gaels in Pairc na hEireann, Birmingham.
It’s nothing new to Fullen Gaels as they’ve been here before, having competed in the 2013 and 2015 All-Ireland Junior finals. Both ties ended in defeat, but that experience could stand to them this weekend.
Paul Cunningham’s men came out on top of a competitive provincial campaign, seeing off St Eunan’s Letterkenny by five in the opening round, on a night when Armagh footballing star Jarlath Óg Burns bagged two goals.
As Armagh’s McKenna Cup campaign kicks off this week, it’s unclear whether Burns will join his fellow hurlers on Sunday.
A three-point victory over Con Magee’s sent Craobh Rua to the decider, where they proved much too strong for Carrickmacross.
They controlled the decider against the Monaghan champions from start to finish, with Conor McKevitt’s early goal handing them the incentive.
Craobh Rua have plenty of firepower up front, led by their accurate free-taker Tiarnan O’Hare, who has rattled off a personal haul of 0-24 across their three outings.
Ryan Lewis, Sean Watters, Ronan Casey and Fiachra Bradley complete a devastating attacking unit.
Oisin O’Hare commands the centre of the defence, but can get forward to score on the odd occasion, as displayed the last day out.
Full-back Stephen O’Keefe and captain Michael Doran will help keep things tight at the back against a team that scored a huge 1-21 in their English decider.