Champions need to be at their best for Ulster opener

By Michael McMullan

GLEN would be “more than happy” if they could edge out Cargin by a point on Sunday at Celtic Park (3pm) when they put their Ulster title on the line, admits manager Malachy O’Rourke.

After leading Loup to the Ulster title in 2003, he has led the Watties to the next level after their underage production line laid the foundations.

O’Rourke expressed both his delight and relief after emerging as top dogs again in Derry before issuing the warning of a need to refocus.

Silver needs celebrated but the Glen boss points to Sunday’s opponents having an extra week to put their own party time to one side and take a deeper look at the Derry champions.

“We haven’t had that luxury,” said O’Rourke, while also thankful of having had a look at Cargin from last season. It took a late Danny Tallon goal to cement their semi-final win on the way to the club’s first-ever Ulster title.

“What’s the point in doing all the hard work and training if you don’t enjoy it?,” O’Rourke said, speaking at the Ulster Championship launch in Armagh, with the panel still finishing off their celebrations back in Maghera.

“There is great bonding, the boys are together and craic is good so that is very important. It is about getting them together and focussing very quickly on the challenge that is ahead.”

The style of football and level of media attention has changed over the past 20 years but O’Rourke still feels the core values of the “community spirit” and “parochial” nature sets the club game apart. There is the atmosphere of a club going on the road to a provincial ground.

“There is a lot in it for communities and there is a great atmosphere at all the games. The parish pride is at stake and it is a great competition to be involved in,” O’Rourke said.

“The prestige has moved up a notch but there is no real difference. The club is always the club and everybody is keen to make their mark on it.”

Looking ahead to Sunday, O’Rourke bills it as a contest to be decided by the odd score. Every county champion is in Ulster for a reason. Also, the conditions lend themselves to a battle. He hopes his side are ready.

“Last year we had a great battle with Cargin and we didn’t expect anything else,” he added, pointing to their championship pedigree and how the new blood has dovetailed around the experienced core We know it is going to be an awful battle and if we get through by a point we’d more than happy. We are going to have to be at our best.”

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