By Shaun Casey
THERE’S plenty of excuses lined up if Liatroim are looking for any ahead of their Down SHC semi-final date with Ballycran, but boss Collie Murphy insists his side are willing to give it their best shot.
A dual club, the Liatroim footballers have also made it to the latter end of the championship, while last year’s Ulster Intermediate champions face roll of honour leaders Ballycran away from home.
“That was our goal this year, to get to the semi-final,” said Murphy. “What’s really disappointing is that Down, it’s the only country in Ireland that I know that you play a knockout championship match at a home venue.
“I just can’t get my head around it. I’ve never seen it before in all my days that your reward for winning the group is a home venue whereas in Antrim, your reward was playing one of the lower seeded teams.
“There’s not one round of the football in Down where any of the matches are played either home or away, they’re all neutral from the first round. To me it’s just a convenience for Down to say they don’t have to look at pitches, they don’t have to do this, they don’t have to do that.
“It’s something that you just have to work with, but it reeks of ill-management on the county’s behalf. I just think it’s pathetic.
“It’s tough enough trying to make a breakthrough coming from our side, and then you have to go and play Ballycran in Ballycran in the semi-final of a championship. I understand the league bases being home and away, but not when it comes to the knockout stages.”
They’ve enjoyed their life at senior level however, having won two of their five group games. “You want to be challenging yourself and you want to play at the highest grade,” added Murphy.
“The boys are enjoying it even though it’s tough going playing against single code clubs and seven or eight of our starters play for the footballers as well. There’s a good relationship with the two management teams so you just have to try and manage the players individually.”
Murphy knows his side are already up against as they face a Ballycran side that has contested the last five county finals, winning three. “Definitely they’re the team to beat.
“We played them at our pitch (during the group stages), and they beat us handy in the end, so we know we’re up against it. They have some cracking players; they are very physically strong, they’re well-organised.
“We know we’re up against it, the odds are stacked against us. We’re going away, we’re playing Ballycran in the semi-final of a championship, we’re a dual club and we have people playing football championship on Sunday there.
“We know everything is against us but sure we’re there and we have a chance, and we’ll give ourselves a chance. We’re the only people giving us a chance, nobody else.
“The bookies don’t often get it wrong, and I think we’re 61 or something like that. In a two-horse race that’s some odds.”