By Kieran Lynch
FERMANAGH’S Lisbellaw are preparing for an Ulster final despite having only won a championship match for the first time in nine years as recently as December.
Regardless of their barren run in the provincial championship, manager David Teague isn’t surprised that they have reached the decider.
“We have always known that we have a great group of fellas there, quality wise, but I suppose it was just about getting everyone injury free and committed, because over half of the squad play football as well,” said Teague.
“Just the way that things have panned out this year has been great; we’ve been training with a panel of 32 men, which is probably the most that we have ever had, and things have just started to fall into place really well, between the quality and the commitment.”
Lisbellaw last featured in an Ulster Intermediate Hurling final in 2012, which is also the last year that they won had a championship game before this season.
With Lisbellaw being the only senior hurling team in the entire county of Fermanagh, all the emphasis is on Ulster, and it is imperative to get off to a good start, which they did this year beating Newry Shamrocks in the quarter-final.
“Come championship time we’re at a massive disadvantage compared to any other county in that we don’t have a county championship to play in ourselves,” said the Lisbellaw manager.
“So that first game is always so crucial when we go into Ulster, and just getting over the line against Newry, it just gave us such confidence and we know that at this level, it is going to take a really good team to beat us.”
After overcoming Newry Shamrocks, the next step for Lisbellaw was Éire Óg Carrickmore, and despite the sides being level at the break, Lisbellaw steamrolled through the second half winning 1-17 to 0-10. Teague explained how his team were able to come through the semi-final.
“There was nothing too complicated said at half-time to be honest, we had to focus completely on ourselves, the basics, the things we worked at in training.
“There is nothing better than to see that in the second half where the stuff we worked on comes off on the pitch and you get a good win like that. The semi-final win fills us with even more confidence now going into the final.”
Since that game, Teague has kept the squad fresh through Christmas and used all his depth available to him in training, to keep them up to speed for the final.
“Since the semi-final we have just been doing massive amounts of match practice,” he said.
“We have doing plenty of 15 a-side matches, and they’ve been extremely intense and even, with men cutting lumps out of each other – it’s what you want.”
With a stiff test awaiting in the final in the form of Derry champions Banagher, Teague’s message to the team will be not to worry about the opposition, but to focus on what they can do themselves.
“In the first two games we’ve only put in second half performances really, so our focus is that as soon as that first whistle goes in the final, we have to put in two halves together.
“We know that Banagher are the best team that we have played, but we also know that if we can put those two halves together, we will be there or thereabouts.”