By Michael McMullan
LISBELLAW hurlers’ preparation for this weekend’s Ulster showdown with Newry Shamrocks has been ‘far from ideal’, but manager Davey Teague insists his side won’t be found wanting in the conditioning stakes.
As the only club at Ulster intermediate level in Fermanagh, their reserve team play in the junior championship, with the first team plying their trade in the Armagh league.
“That went well and we got to the final where lost to Middletown by a goal,” said Teague of their last competitive outing, some 14 weeks before this weekend’s Ulster showdown.
Some of the Armagh teams didn’t travel to their away game in Fermanagh, but Lisbellaw made do with what they got.
“We had three leagues games and the final with Middletown, which was a good competitive game,” Teague added. “At our level, Middletown are probably the team to beat.”
The 24-year-old played for the club and won a Lory Meagher Cup medal with Fermanagh, alongside his brothers Matthew and Daniel.
“I played up into three years ago and I had to stop through a heart condition they found, so now I find myself as manager,” he points out.
Trying to pull the pieces together to challenge the cream of Ulster is a unique situation. Teague had to name 20 players that couldn’t play junior hurling, but having two teams has helped bolster the numbers and their in-house games have been invaluable for getting their touch back.
“Thank God for football,” he stresses. “I would say 15 or 20 boys play football, so that definitely helps our situation, keeping them in shape and competitive.”
Ten of the squad play football for Maguiresbridge. Conor McShea was on the losing Enniskillen Gaels team in Sunday’s senior final, with star forward Tom Keenan in action with the Kinawley team that took champions Derrygonnelly to a replay.
“We have played as many challenge matches as we could, but when teams are playing their own championships, it is hard to get them,” Teague stresses.
Three weeks ago they had a valuable away win over Sligo champions Easkey.
“We now have a squad of 30 men competing for places and we are looking forward to it, it has been a long time coming,” he said.
Another ingredient was having 23 players involved in Fermanagh’s 3-26 to 1-17 win over Cavan in the Lory Meagher Cup Final.
“At least 12 of them started and about four came on,” Teague adds. “The boys know that while winning it is well and good, but at Ulster intermediate you are playing against forwards from Down and Antrim and it will be a higher standard.”
Lisbellaw last won a game at this level in 2012 when they beat Cloughmills in the final and Teague was in attendance when Newry Shamrocks beat a fancied Carryduff side in last weekend’s Down decider.
“It was good to see them for the first time,” he said. “They are coming out of a round robin and have a good final win behind them.
“The man I’d single out was Paul Sheehan. He was brilliant and he’ll need watched. Although the preparation has been far from ideal, we are confident we can do it on the day.”