By Shaun Casey
ÉIRE Óg, Carrickmore needed extra-time to finally shake off the challenge of Fermanagh champions Lisbellaw in last year’s Ulster Hurling Championship semi-final and they would accept a similar style of victory this weekend.
On Sunday afternoon, (Páirc Colmcille, 2pm), the two sides lock horns for the third season in a row and this clash will be the decider, with both having racked up one win apiece from the previous two encounters.
Lisbellaw eased to a ten-point victory back in 2021 on their way to the Ulster final, which they ultimately lost to Derry side Banagher, while Carrickmore turned the tables 12 months ago.
A long-range delivery from Justin Kelly ended up in the back of the net, taking the game to extra-time last season. Eire Og were the better team in the additional 20 minutes of hurling, winning 2-23 to 2-18 in the end.
“We’ve actually played Lisbellaw in the last two years in the Ulster Championship, so we know them fairly well at this stage,” said Éire Óg star Bryan McGurk, who was one of nine scorers in that contest.
“Last year we just got over the line against them after extra-time so it’ll be evenly matched again, I would imagine.
“They gave us a wee bit of a trimming the year before and I suppose we took that defeat to heart maybe; we didn’t really play to our strengths that day. We got one back on them last years and we’ll be expecting a tight one again.
“It went all the way to extra=time last year, we got a goal at the end of normal time to level it and we just pushed on then and won in extra-time.”
That sent Éire Óg through to the last four in the Ulster Intermediate race where extra-time was once again called upon. This time however, Éire Óg would falter after normal time, and it was Armagh side Middletown who advanced to the decider.
“Middletown beat us then in the Athletic Grounds in the semi-final last year, it went to extra-time as well,” added McGurk, who chipped in with 0-1 that day. “We’re eager to give this a really good shot, it’s a big aim to give it a really good rattle.”
Carrickmore have reached the Ulster final twice in their entire history but just came up short against St John’s and Creggan Kickhams in the 2010 and 2015 deciders. But McGurk insists it remains “a privilege” to represent Tyrone at this level.
“When you’re still training at this time of the year, you know you have something to play for and I suppose like a lot of the clubs throughout Ulster, there may be isn’t a huge number of clubs within your county.
“So, to get into Ulster and represent your county, it’s great to be able to test yourself against other teams throughout Ulster. To represent your county in Ulster, it’s a privilege.”