By Niall Gartland
POMEROY successfully navigated a treacherous path to Tyrone Intermediate Championship glory and they face another massive test when they take on St Patrick’s, Cullyhanna in their first provincial outing this Saturday evening at O’Neill’s Healy Park.
Coach John McElholm recognises that there are parallels between the two clubs in terms of their recent senior experience and being able to draw upon established intercounty players (Armagh joint-captain Aidan Nugent, Jason Duffy and Ross McQuillan are all Cullyhanna men), but the Plunketts have been thoroughly road-tested in their journey to this point.
Many of these Pomeroy players won an Ulster Intermediate title back in 2016 but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that it won’t be easy against a Cullyhanna team that ran riot in the Armagh Intermediate final, running out 22-point victors over a shell-shocked St Paul’s side.
McElholm said: “We definitely did it the hard way in Tyrone and we spoke about that the other night, we came up against three teams involved in the play-offs, Beragh, Derrylaughan and the Moy, and Owen Roes finished just outside the play-off spots.
“Every game was a challenge and I know it’s a cliché but we never looked beyond the next game because you can be pipped any day you go out in Tyrone.
“We were tested by all those teams and that’s steeled us a bit, it’s made us more resilient but we know it’s another big test this Saturday against Cullyhanna.”
Elaborating on the similarities between the two teams, McElholm said: “I remember in my last year involved in the Killyclogher set-up in 2017, Pomeroy beat us in the Senior Championship in Dunmoyle.
“A lot of those players are still on the go and playing really well. It’s the same idea with Cullyhanna, they slipped down to Intermediate between injuries, travelling and lads being on county duty, but it hasn’t taken them any time at all to get back up to senior and they’ve done it in style to be fair of them. They’re a bit like ourselves, they have a few intercounty footballers surrounded by very competent players so it’ll be an interesting game and one we’re looking forward to.”
This is McElholm’s first year involved with the Plunketts and it’s certainly been a very enjoyable experience for the Loughmacrory native, who emphasises that it’s very much a team effort on the management front.
“It’s been really positive being alongside Deccy McCallan and JJ Kavanagh, two local men steeped in the whole tradition of the club. Aaron Grugan works with us on the strength and conditioning side of things, and there’s obviously others behind the scenes helping out in different ways, the same as you’d get in any club.
“It’s very democratic, we all have our own strengths and everyone has an equal say with their own roles and parts to play. It’s worked really well, it’s been a really enjoyable year and the bit of success at the end of it certainly helps as well.”
County stars Frank Burns and Kieran McGeary delivered massive performances in the Tyrone Intermediate Championship final against the Moy, but one of the impressive things about Pomeroy this year has been the contribution from right across the team.
McElholm said: “Hugh Pat (McGeary) has come back and been brilliant, Brendan Burns, what a player. You have older fellas like Ronan McKenna who has been fantastic in defence.
“Then you have the younger boys who are making a real name for themselves, Jude Campbell, Lorcan Kilpatrick, Ronan Duffin.
“That’s only scratching the surface really – we were saying the the other day that we were so pleased with every man’s performance in the county final. You don’t often get that, you sometimes get a few men under par especially in a final but we felt that everyone performed brilliant. Any changes we made were purely tactical and for no other reason, simply to try to mitigate the subs made by the Moy. We were delighted with how everyone played and we just need to make sure we get the same again this Saturday.”