By Michael McMullan
IT’S been an eventful season for the hurlers of Eoghan Rua who take on Ballinascreen this Saturday’s intermediate decider.
After languishing in the junior ranks, a win over Lavey was the springboard on their way to defeating a fancied Swatragh in the semi-final.
With last weekend’s football relegation play-off with Kilrea called off, it allowed for total preparation on the ‘wee ball’ and getting a passport into the Ulster scene.
“We are happy about it,” said manager Kieran Lagan of their progress so far.
After coming on board this season, the motivation was to stay away from the junior final in Derry’s three-tier hurling championship where the teams at the bottom after the group stages play-off to decide on intermediate or junior progress.
“We didn’t want to be in a junior final again….we don’t want to be the loser of the loser,” Lagan said of the mood in the camp.
“It (the junior final) is just a play-off to get into Ulster having lost every game coming up to it. It was about proving to ourselves at intermediate , that we could go and do something.”
After losing their first group game to Kevin Lynch’s, Lagan’s side began to improve but still the results didn’t come.
From a small playing pool, they were without Liam McGoldrick who moved to work in Dubai. They had their share of injuries and had to split their time with football involvement.
They didn’t take their eye off the ball. It was all about using competitive games to prepare for a tilt at intermediate and their gateway was a clash with Lavey.
“The importance of that next match was do or die, to get out of that junior,” stressed Lagan. “We were building up towards that game, that was the big one.”
Lagan’s father played for Lavey and with his brother (Adrian) Lagan hurling with them in the absence of a hurling club in Coleraine.
“For me to be in charge of a team that put Lavey out and moving forward, that was something…it was emotional for me,” he said.
Winning in dramatic fashion sent Lagan buzzing into overdrive. The late goals were the deciding factor, but it was a win built on the solid foundations of graft with Niall Holly at its core with 2-2 from centre forward.
“They are good battlers and won’t give up,” Lagan said of this side. “They have been up against it many a time. We know that if we are going to do anything, we are going to have to battle. If we are going to win anything, we have to fight for it.”
In a landscape now dominated by Sleacht Néill, with Kevin Lynch’s and Swatragh pushing them hard, nothing comes easy for the chasing pack.
Swatragh were the fancied horse as action turned to intermediate, but Coleraine turned them over despite Lagan admitting it wasn’t their greatest performance.
“I don’t think we won a breaking ball against Swatragh, but we won the game,” he summed up of a stop-start encounter dominated by frees.
This weekend they face a ‘Screen team that beat them (0-23 to 2-8) in the group stages. Lagan sees his side again as underdogs, buts it’s a tag he gladly accepts.
With many of the Eoghan Rua legs coming to the end of their careers, Lagan doesn’t know how much more his players have left to give to both codes.
“Opportunities like this coming around again are slim. This is the one and only opportunity to show what we are capable of,” he concluded.