MIDDLETOWN have been there, done that and worn the t-shirt. Since 2009, the Armagh kingpins have competed in three Ulster Intermediate finals, winning two in 2011 and 2017, with their only loss coming in 2009 against St Gall’s.
On those two winning occasions, Ryan Gaffney top scored for the Middletown men and the joint-captain, along Cahal Carvill, hopes to collect a third winners medal this Saturday.
“It’s like any final, there’ll definitely be nerves around the camp,” said Gaffney. “We’ve won this competition a couple of times now and we’ve also lost finals as well, so I’d like to think we have a good bit of experience there.
“There are young lads in the team that are going in to play in their first Ulster final as well and I have no doubt they’ll meet it like they’ve met all the other games this year. I suppose Liatroim, they’ll have a lot of experience as well.
“We understand what their club is about, it’s very similar to ourselves, providing hurling and football for their players. In terms of experience, experience can count for a lot, but it comes down to who performs best on the day.
“That’s what we’ll be trying to do, we’ll be trying to get a better performance in the final because we know we’re definitely going to have to perform better if we’re going to beat Liatroim.”
Middletown defeated Liatroim on their way to that first final appearance in 2009, but recent meetings have been few and far between. Still, Gaffney knows enough about the Down champions and is well aware of the threat they pose.
“We know they have a lot of good players, the likes of Tiernan Murphy is in there this year and we know that he’s a very talented player.
“Also, the three McCrickards (Pearse Óg, Conor and Ruairi) as well, who have great experience of playing with Down and are strong enough hurlers to walk on to any team. They’re definitely great athletes and we understand that they’re going to be very hard men to stop,” added Gaffney.
Middletown have displayed great battling qualities throughout the campaign, coming from behind to beat Keady in the county final before repeating the feat in their two Ulster clashes against Eoghan Rua and Éire Óg.
“It’s something that’s drummed into any team – to keep playing right to the end. We’ve ridden our luck a wee bit maybe in these last few games.
“We’ve grown into the games as they’ve gone on but the first ten minutes or so of the last number of games, we’ve been slow out of the blocks.
“That’s something we definitely need to get right on Saturday, we can’t afford to give Liatroim a good head start, because all of us would be afraid of that catching up on us sometime.”
“But we know we have improvements to make, and we know the areas that we need to improve on, and we’ll be focusing on doing that ahead of the final.”