By Shaun Casey
THE hurt of losing last year’s Intermediate Championship final in the cruellest of ways has driven St Paul’s on this season, says their joint-captain Eoin McConville.
Winning by two points with just seconds left on the clock, the Lurgan men conceded a last-gasp goal against Shane O’Neill’s to see the trophy ripped from their grasp.
“I suppose after last year getting to the final and getting beaten the way we did, the most important thing for us was to go out and really train well all year and try to get back into the final to try and right that wrong I suppose” said McConville.
“Teams could probably take it one of two ways. They could fold or they could go and maybe get a wee bit hungrier, and I think that is what has happened to us – we got hungrier.
“There’s a lot of new boys as well into the team this year, Shea Kearney and Shea Conway are two additions into the starting team from last year and they’ve been a big help so we’re just hoping to go another step further.
“I can’t think of anything better than going up and lifting the trophy. It’s a nice honour for myself personally to captain the club and especially in the Intermediate final.”
St Paul’s, who enter their third championship decider in four years, came through an extremely tough semi-final clash with underdogs Keady and the sides played out possibly the game of the season so far.
Five goals in the opening 20 minutes tells its own tale, with All-Star nominee Andrew Murnin grabbing all three of St Paul’s goals.
“I suppose we weren’t expecting the game to go that way,” added McConville, who captains the team alongside his midfield partner Niall McCorry. “But fair play to Keady, they won promotion from Division 2B into 2A this year they looked dangerous.
“They had James O’Hara there, (Shea) Harvey at right half-back as well, I thought they were excellent. Obviously, we knew about them two beforehand, but Keady played well until maybe the last ten minutes when it got away from them.”
2002 All-Ireland winner Ronan Clarke has been in charge of the Lurgan side this season, having taken over from Shane McConville at the end of 2022, and will be hoping to end the year with a bit of silverware.
McConville, who lines out at midfield but regularly finds himself further forward, has hit 0-16 across their five championship games to date. The guidance that Ronan Clarke, Young Footballer of the Year in 2002, can deliver, has been superb according to McConville.
“Ronan knows his way around a Gaelic field better than most.
“His medal collection and his experience stands alone especially for boys like myself who are forward thinking players. He was a genius footballer so you know if you’re taking advice off him then you’re going in the right direction.”