By Shaun Casey
SUNDAY afternoon will see Monaghan Intermediate champions Killanny explore new territory as they compete in the Ulster Club Championship for the very first time.
Just getting over the line in their own county was a struggle as Killanny ended a 45-year gap for championship glory.
They tasted the pain of a Junior Championship final defeat just 12 months ago, when they lost to Clones, but bounced back this year to claim the Intermediate throne.
Killanny even exceeded their own expectations as their main target at the start of the year was to retain their place at the intermediate grade.
“We were beat in the Junior Championship final last year by Clones and we’re very happy to have made it this year,” explained Dean Connolly.
“We were in intermediate two years ago and we were relegated to junior, and we were really looking to go straight back up. We got to the league and championship finals; we won the league (to earn promotion), but we were unlucky in the championship.
“Probably coming into this year, we were just hoping to stay up really but we found ourselves in a position where we came second in the group, and we went from there.
“We’ve been working hard the past two years and thankfully it’s paid off. We lost our first game in the group, and we won the remaining games and we’re unbeaten since then.
“It was against our neighbours Carrickmacross, and it went to extra-time.
“We were behind pretty much for the entire game and then a few minutes into the second half of extra-time we went ahead for the first time and kicked on from there.”
In the provincial campaign, Killanny will take on Liatroim in the quarter-finals as the Down champions dismissed Fermanagh’s Teemore Shamrocks with ease in the preliminary round, 3-6 to 0-4.
While the Monaghan representatives will have enjoyed the benefit of seeing their opponents in the flesh last weekend, Connolly insists his side are in bonus territory and just as they have done all season long, they’ll be focusing on themselves this weekend.
“It’s our first ever Intermediate Championship and our first championship in general since 1978 so it’s been quite a while,” added Connolly. “We probably feel that we’re somewhat in bonus territory now but we’re really looking to give it a go and see what happens.
“It’ll be a great chance to see who we’re coming up against but all year we’ve been more focused on ourselves and making sure that we’re hitting the ground running but it’s an advantage to see them play before.”
As Killanny only had a two-week break between their county final win and their provincial opener, there are a lot of weary bodies in their changing room, but Connolly hopes they’ll all be good to go come Sunday.
“The bodies are sore, but I think you have that nearly after every game especially after a final that’s gone to extra-time, but we’ll regroup and take it on from there.”