By Niall Gartland
KNOCKBRIDE have turned their fortunes around this year and have capped it all off by claiming a promotion berth to Division One with last weekend’s league semi-final victory over Cootehill.
Their manager Aidan McCabe has been delighted with their progress and while the big target has now been achieved, he says their upcoming Division Two final clash against Cuchulainn’s on Saturday week is a massive game in its own right.
But it’s worth pausing to consider the significance of what Knockbride have already achieved this year – in 2024 they will play top-flight football for the first time in two decades, a remarkable up-turn in fortunes for a club that has blossomed at youth level in recent years.
McCabe said: “We were in a relegation play-off this time last year. We narrowly lost a lot of games and ended up in a relegation battle, we finished fourth from bottom.
“This time around we got off to a good start by winning the Ulster Junior League, it got us competitive matches and started things off on a good footing.
“We’d some great results in the league in Cavan and we’ve a huge panel as well, we’ve seven or eight lads who came out of minor grade last year. We’d three on the county u-20 panel, Lorcan Reilly, Kyle McCabe and Michael Smith, those boys have been a huge help.”
Knockbride, one of the favourites for the upcoming Cavan Junior competition, albeit there’s strong competition from the likes of Division One side Arva, booked their promotion berth with a hard-fought win over McCabe’s native Cootehill last weekend.
He said: “They beat us back in round two and I said to my selector I’d a feeling we’d end up playing them again.
“The game on Saturday was played in extremely poor conditions but the pitch held up well which is a credit to Kingscourt.
“We’d a fantastic start in the second half to give us a bit of breathing space but Cootehill fought back with a goal and we just about held on in the end.
“It wasn’t champagne football but it was an entertaining game from a neutral perspective, there was good skill and fitness on display from both sides especially given the conditions. It was all about getting over the line in an all-or-nothing game like that.”
“We’re now in a league final against Cuchulainn’s and we’ll have our work cut out for us. We don’t feel like it’s bonus territory, it’s a huge final.
“The club is in the reserve final this Friday as well so it’s great for all the players that there’s two league finals for everyone over the next week or so, it’s a nice place to be.”