Liatroim one game away from Ulster final berth

By Niall Gartland

LIATROIM Fontenoys is what is commonly referred to as a dual club, but for this week hurling is the big focus as they gear up for an Ulster Intermediate semi-final against Clooney Gaels.

There are a number of talented dual stars in their ranks, including brothers Pearse Óg and Conor McCrickard, alongside their cousin Ruairi, and they’re only two steps away from becoming the first ever Down side to win the Ulster Hurling title at Intermediate level.

Indeed, Liatroim are the only team from the county to even make the final – they lost three finals in the early days of the competition from 2006 to 2008 – so they have a bit of pedigree in the competition.

Their manager is Colly Murphy, a native of esteemed Belfast club O’Donovan Rossa, and he says the club’s impressive facilities lend itself to a foray through Ulster.

“I’m enjoying my time here, it’s a nice change of scenery and a really sold club. They’ve two floodlit pitches and the top pitch in particular is fantastic. We’ve a ball wall and training pitch and they’re also under lights. It’s handy for an Ulster Championship campaign, we’re not running around going to other clubs and borrowing leisure centre facilities, we’ve everything in place for us.”

“The footballers were put out two weeks before the county final so we’ve had full access to the players for six weeks now. But there’s a good relationship between the football management and ourselves, there’s never been any issues there.”

Murphy downplayed expectations ahead of their last-dour date with Clooney Gaels, but it’s fair to say they aren’t lacking in scoring power.

“In fairness there were a lot of frees and for this time of year the pitch was quite good, it made for free-flowing hurling,” he said of their last-round win over Castleblayney.

“There weren’t many rucks or anything like that, there weren’t many hop balls and the sliotor was in play for most of the game.

“The main objective at the start of the year was to try to win the Down Intermediate Championship and we’ve done that, so Ulster is a bonus really. We weren’t favourites to win Down, we weren’t favourites to beat Castleblayney and we certainly won’t be favourites against Clooney Gaels, but we’re enjoying the journey and long may it continue.”

Liatroim have plenty of youthful talent coming through the ranks, including the aforementioned trio of McCrickards.

Conor McCrickard actually spent last year representing Cork side St Finbarr’s, who won the Munster title.

“We’ve a lot of lads come through county development squads. Ruairi McCrickard was out injured last year with a shoulder injury and is back. Conor’s back as well, he played with St Finbarr’s last year, they were beaten by Kilcoo in extra-time of the All-Ireland semi-final.

“There’s good lads coming through and there should be a few more additions to the Down team in the near future I imagine.”

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