By Michael McMullan
EOGHAN RUA Coleraine captain Ruairi Mooney says hurling in the club has reached its highest point to date as they prepare for the visit of Middletown to Celtic Park on Sunday.
Their Derry Intermediate Championship success might have raised a few eyebrows outside the club, but, for Mooney, it’s the step they needed to take and they want to keep their trajectory going upwards.
Their focus from the start of the season has been to elevate themselves from the junior level. A win over Lavey set them up for a clash with Swatragh.
“It wasn’t a game for a hurling purist, it was a bit of a dogfight near the end, with both teams trying to get their hands on possession from puck-outs and there was a lot of breaking ball,” Mooney said,
The scrap for possession helped them ahead of their final with Ballinascreen Mooney admits the physical nature of the game suited them.
With their pending football relegation game with Kilrea shelved after Derry CCC’s cancelation of the relegation cleared the decks for total hurling preparation.
“Anyone who is a dual player will tell you that it’s challenging to balance both,” said Mooney.
“There have been a lot of boys that have put in a lot of service in Eoghan Rua hurling, Laggy (manager Kieran Lagan) has come in this year, a past dual player, that is good because he understands the situation with the lads playing both (codes).
“He has brought a bit of fresh enthusiasm and ideas and he has put his own touch on it. All the boys are playing for him, he understands us as he is a past player.
“To have the football wrapped up for the year does help the hurling side of the club. It helps us prepare more, we can get more work done on our skills and train as a panel without having to manage ourselves.”
Their win over Ballinascreen was, in Mooney’s opinion, the club’s biggest achievement in their history. He remembers the early years of Coleraine teams being mixed into the reserve leagues.
“When you look at the big picture, it shows you how far we have come. Competing was what we wanted to be doing at that level (intermediate) and to go on and win it was fantastic,” he said.
It’s a busy schedule in the club with their development draw demanding going door to door to help raise money for a planned second pitch to meet the demand of a thriving four-code club.
Mooney is no different. An artist by trade, the paintbrush is left to one side in the evening as he mixed training with clocking up the miles to knock doors.
It keeps the mind off the hurling arena until it’s time to switch on, for days like Sunday against a highly rated Middletown team who’ll hope to match their 2017 season when they saw off Lavey in an Ulster intermediate decider in Corrigan Park with Martin Maguire late goal their magic moment in an entertaining 2-16 to 2-13 win.
The Sleacht Néill players always remark how tough an assignment the Armagh side offered in the senior semi-final 12 months later.
“We know they have got a strong record in Armagh hurling and even looking at some of the results against Derry teams,” Mooney differed.
“They will be a tough team,
our focus is on this game we won’t
be looking beyond it and we’ll be ready.
“They are in familiar territory more than us, but we have been underdogs in the previous this year so we can cope with that and we’ll not be taking them lightly.”