By Kieran Lynch
TWO-TIME Ulster Intermediate Champions Middletown get their provincial campaign started this Saturday, but before anybody starts tipping them for a third crown, joint-captain Shea Gaffney stressed the need to take things as they come.
He said: “We take it step-by-step and don’t look too far ahead at all. I think if you do that, you’re leaving yourselves open to get caught out, and that’s something we would never really allow to seep into the group.”
“We did it in Armagh, and we’ll just be using that same template in the Ulster campaign also.”
Having won six of the last seven titles in Armagh, it’s no surprise for Middletown to be considered amongst the top contenders at Ulster Intermediate, but Gaffney rubbished any talk about being favourites and pointed out that their upcoming opponents, Castleblayney, are on a similar run of dominance in their own county.
“Some games you go in as favourites, other games you go in as underdogs, and you have no real control over that.
“What you do have control over is your own performance, and that’s something we’re really focusing on, and have been focusing on over the last number of weeks.”
“Castleblayney have won five Monaghan championships in a row and obviously they have a lot of lads on the county panel.
“We know the opposition in front of us has got a lot of quality and they’ve obviously found a winning formula in Monaghan, so we’re well aware of the task.”
One element that plays to Middletown’s advantage is that they go into the Ulster Championship having already been tested this year, most notably in their last outing against Keady, where they had to come back from behind. Gaffney explained how that win may benefit his side, if
they are to make a run through Ulster.
“It helps having some of those games where your backs are against the wall.
“In the final against Keady, we were four points down at half-time, and we still managed to find a way to come back in the game. It can only stand to you, putting in those sorts of performances when the pressure is on.”
“It helps to come through it, so you know you’ve got that in your locker – the ability to come back, when the chips are down.”
Additionally, as with any team, Middletown’s chances will depend on everybody staying fit, which is something that Gaffney highlighted the importance of.
“We’re pretty clear with injuries and that sort of thing. Other years we haven’t had that bit of luck, and you need it to get through the championship, so thankfully we’ve been injury free so far.”
On-form and injury free is how Middletown enter the Ulster Championship, and Gaffney says his team are excited to represent themselves this Saturday.
“The mood is pretty good; I suppose any time you get into the Ulster Championship, it’s a good opportunity to represent not only your club, but also your county at provincial level, so it’s something the whole panel is really looking forward to.”