Curry expecting another massive battle against Éire Óg

By Niall Gartland

MIDDLETOWN hurler Nathan Curry doesn’t need to be told that they face a huge test of their ambitions in Saturday’s Ulster Intermediate semi-final showdown against Éire Óg, Carrickmore.

Curry also lines out for the Armagh hurlers, so he’s understandably conscious of their disappointing record against the Red Hands on the intercounty circuit this year – a Tyrone side steeled with Carrickmore hurlers came out on top on all three occasions.

But Middletown have grounds for confidence given their excellent record in the Ulster Intermediate Championship, winning titles in 2011 and 2017 (Curry himself made his debut all the way back in 2006), and they also pipped Éire Óg in a thrilling semi-final clash en route to honours five years ago.

“Ourselves and Éire Óg have had some great battles over the years and we’re expecting nothing different this weekend.

“Tyrone have had the better of things at intercounty level over the last few years and that’s not by chance. A lot of work has gone into Tyrone hurling and that’s evident by the quality of managers they have. Michael McShane is over them at intercounty level and Cormac Donnelly is in with Carrickmore as well, he was an assistant to McShane at Sleacht Néill a few years ago. I’m sure both camps are thinking they can win this one so it could make for a really exciting match.”

Middletown have been utterly dominant in Armagh over the last decade, winning seven of the last eight titles. At provincial level they were beaten by eventual champions Banagher last year, so they’ll be hoping to progress further in this year’s competition.

“We’ve been lucky that the same core of players have stuck together over the last 10 or 11 years, but we’ve added some new blood as well. Dean Gaffney is still relatively young but in our eyes he’s one of our main senior players, and we’ve younger fellas like Sean Og McGuinness doing really well as well.

“Last year, losing to Banagher was a bitter pill to swallow. They went on to win Ulster and they acquitted themselves well in the All-Ireland semi-final. Yes you set out to win your county title, but once you have that in the bag, the Ulster Championship is something you really strive for. You’re playing the best teams in the province at that level so you really want to have a go at it.”

Middletown got their provincial campaign underway with a hard-fought victory against an improving Eoghan Rua, Coleraine side. They were pushed to the pins of their collar so it was perfect preparation for the semi-final.

“We knew Eoghan Rua were going to bring massive intensity to the game and we’d have to match that. In the second-half we had the breeze at our backs and we really seemed to lift things after Kieran McKernan scored an inspirational point midway through the second half. It seemed to kick-start our resurgence and we pushed for home after that.”

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