By Michael McMullan
CASTLERAHAN must meet Corduff head on in Sunday’s Ulster Intermediate semi-final showdown in Crossmaglen insists manager Brian Donohoe.
In his first season in charge, Donohoe has helped the former senior champions back to the top flight and are 60 minutes away from a place in the Ulster decider.
No Cavan club has won the Intermediate title since Ballinagh’s 2007 success, but Donohoe is fully braced for what is coming around the corner this weekend.
“We know Corduff are going to be a very strong opponent, they have a lot of physical strength and size,” Donohoe stressed.
“They have a big backroom team and a very experienced manager in Seamus McEnaney.”
Castlerahan needed 1-3 from ace attacker Oisin O’Connell to see off Ballyhaise in the Breffni decider before a 0-13 to 0-10 win over Fermanagh side Devenish in their Ulster quarter-final.
It’s an experienced Castlerahan side with ‘eight or nine’ players from their 2018 and 2019 senior winning teams, after getting to the three finals before that.
Last season saw them lose all five games in the championship, including their relegation play-off, leaving them doomed to the intermediate ranks.
Incidentally, Donohoe was part of the Ballinagh management that won the 2022 intermediate title and it was their win over Castlerahan in the group stages last season that put them deeper into the relegation mire. This season, it was all about getting back on the horse for Castlerahan.
“We started ’22 with a clean slate; looking forward and trying to drive the thing on,” said Donohoe, who heads a management team that includes his brother-in-law Mark Smith and former Castlerahan midfield general John Clarke.
“We had an honest sit down towards the end of November (last year) and we outlined that standards had dropped; training had dropped so we had to come up across all the levels.
“You can’t feel sorry for yourself, you really have to get back at it on the pitch, in the gym and mind yourself in the off-season.”
Donohoe hailed the efforts of the players who followed strength and conditioning coach Martin McKiernan’s programme to a tee and were ready to hit the ground running when the Cavan league programme began.
After finishing mid-table in the league, there was a third place finish in the championship group stages and Castlerahan needed a replay to see off Cuchullains in the semi-final.
“It was a tight game,” Donohoe said of their 1-8 to 0-8 win over Ballyhaise in the final. “In some people’s eyes, they were favourites, but we never really looked at it like that. We approached it with confidence and hoping to execute a good performance. The weather was very poor on the day but we got the job done.”
Going into Ulster, the Castlerahan boss knew Devenish would be a tough nut to crack and is happy to have the game in the locker as they approach this weekend’s semi-finals.
“It was a really powerful game and in the balance until the last 10 minutes,” Donohoe summed up, before looking ahead to Sunday.
“They (Corduff) will be coming all guns blazing and we’ll need to meet them head on and rise to the battle. It’ll be a very tough challenge, but it’s certainly one we are looking forward to.”