By Kieran Lynch
MAGHERACLOONE Mitchells will be hoping to return to the intermediate final, which they won in 2019 on their way to the All-Ireland decider, when they face off against Emyvale this weekend.
After a strong group phase performance, where they won three out of four games, Gary Farrelly’s side earned a bye into the semi-finals.
However, Sunday’s encounter will be their first championship game since September 4, and when Farrelly was asked as to whether that’s a good or bad thing for his team, he said that time will tell.
“That will be answered on Sunday,” he remarked.
“That’s the truth – it can work both ways. I suppose it ensured that we have no injuries now, and we were probably doing some tougher training maybe than a team that was playing the following weekend would do.
“The only drawback could be our match sharpness, but we won’t know until Sunday.”
The aforementioned fixture which took place on September 4 was against this weekend’s opponents, when Magheracloone ran out 5-11 to 3-9 winners, but Farrelly believes that the score-line doesn’t tell the story of the game.
“If you looked at the top two teams we have played this year, they would definitely be one of them,” he said of Emyvale.
“In the last championship game, we finished with two opportunist goals at the end that pushed us away from them, but it was a nip-and-tuck game for long periods.
“They’re a very good team and I rate them very highly.”
Magheracloone have benefitted from an influx of youth this season, as youngsters Rory McMahon, Dylan Byrne, Patrick Farrelly and Kian Duffy have all broken through, adding to a core of experienced players such as their captain and former Monaghan star Gavin Doogan.
As Intermediate Championship winners in 2019, Farrelly feels that having players in the squad who have big-game experience could be useful this Sunday.
“Obviously if you have never been around a stage like this before, you don’t know what you’re going to get,” he said.
“But a lot of the lads have been there before, so I’m sure that their experience will help on the day. I suppose that there has been quite a turnover of players since then, but we have a backbone of seven or eight players who have been there and done it.”
However, no matter what the score is this weekend, Magheracloone as a club have already enjoyed a tremendous year, as in August they returned to playing on their own club grounds for the first time in almost four years.
In 2018, a disused mine collapsed and caused cracks in the clubhouse and across the field, leaving it inaccessible. Following years of relying on support from other clubs across Monaghan, Cavan, Meath and Louth, Magheracloone are now back on their feet.
“It was a good boost,” said Farrelly of their return to playing on their own grounds.
“We only got one game back on it, but we are able to train there now, and we have lights, and it’s a lovely set-up there now to push on.
“I have only been in for one year; Magheracloone has had it tough there for a few years.
“I don’t know how they managed it, but they got by, and are all the better for it.”