ULSTER CLUB JFC PRELIMINARY ROUND
Drumlane v Craigbane
Sunday, Kingspan Breffni Park, 1.30pm
By Michael McMullan
ELEVEN years after being crowned Ulster Intermediate champions, Craigbane are back representing Derry on the provincial trail.
Injuries, retirements and emigration gradually pulled their team apart and after a spell back at intermediate level their period of transition took them to junior football.
Victory over Ballerin to land the Derry title earlier this month capped off an unbeaten season that brought the double.
“We had a good three weeks training and thankfully everybody is fit,” manager Kevin Moore said of their preparation for their Sunday’s visit to Cavan. “We did nothing out of the ordinary, just keeping them sharp and working on the basic things on our own game.”
Moore’s son Lee, a star on their 2011 team, missed the early part of the season championship with suspension with another son, Rory, picking up an injury in the group win over Ballerin.
It was their semi-final win over Ballymaguigan before Craigbane had all their cards available. Soccer player Tiarnan O’Connor returned ot add to the attack. Bliain Gormley, Niall Cartin and John Kerlin hae hae all returned to give them a full panel to select from.
“We took it game by game and when it was close to the end (of the league), we said we’d try and go out and win it,” said manager Moore of a league campaign devoid of promotion or relegation as Derry CCC restructured the leagues.
“I don’t think the structure is right,” he said. “We had our championship squeezed into five or six weeks. A week between a championship games, to me, is nowhere near long enough for recovery time.
“They are on about this split season, the championship is your club season and whenever you are cramming it into five or six weeks, it doesn’t make sense.”
Moore has eight of his 2011 Ulster winning team still on board in some capacity. Scratch the surface and it’s a young core.
The day after their Ulster win, all the children were in Craigbane clubhouse to have their photos taken with the three cups won that season. Eleven years on, some of those youngsters will be boarding the team bus on Sunday morning.
“The underage structures are good and we have teams competing at a fairly high level,” Moore said. “The u-15s won the league and then moved up in the championship, so there are good players coming from the u-15s and the u-17s.”
The secret to Craigbane swapping their nearly men tag – after losing to back-to-back champions Desertmartin in the last two seasons – is simple. It’s all about commitment and hard work. Everything else follows.