By Alan Rodgers
ONE of the main targets which has eluded the Carrickmore hurlers in recent years is now within reach for them as they prepare for this weekend’s Ulster Intermediate semi-final against Creggan.
Defeats in the early rounds of the competition have proved frustrating for the Éire Ógs. But, after an impressive win over Lisbellaw last time out has boosted their confidence. It means that they are in bouyant form ahead of meeting the Antrim champions, Creggan Kickhams, in the semi-final on Saturday at Owenbeg.
There will be no doubting the competitive edge of the Éire Ógs as they face into this last four clash. All are well aware of the need for them to be on top form to compete against and defeat an Antrim side which has a number of inter-county stars in its ranks.
Éire Ógs attacker, Conor Grogan, is under no illusions about the task facing them, or the desire within the group to make their mark in a competition in which success has so far eluded them.
“Creggan beat Bredagh by two points a couple of weeks ago and they’re definitely going to be hard to defeat. If you give them lads any chance at all then they’re going to clip it over the bar,” he said.
“That’s the way it is in the Ulster Championship, but the main thing is that we’re there and it definitely won’t be easy against them. They’ll also have good experience of playing in Antrim and they’ve a couple of players on the county seniors. We know only too well what Conor McCann is capable of doing, and what he has been doing for Antrim for ten years.
“They have serious athletes all over the pitch. They’ll be favourites probably on our side of the draw to get through.”
The Éire Ógs showed real resolve in their quarter final clash against the Fermanagh representatives from Lisbellaw. They trailed for long periods, and looked to have a real hill to climb entering the final quarter.
However, key performances throughout the field ensured that they staged a great revival, with Conor and Sean Óg Grogan, Aidan and Justin Kelly, Dean Rafferty and Oran McKee all to the fore.
“It was definitely dicey enough against Lisbellaw and that’s maybe even an understatement. In fairness, we didn’t panic and just kept sticking to it. We won a lot of possession around the middle third of the pitch towards the end of normal time and then pushed on in extra time,” he added.
“We got the scores which mattered which really meant a lot. It’s just such a relief to have gone through because it would have been really disheartening to go out at the first round stage.
“I think the whole team will get more confidence. In the championship the further you progress then the more you grow as a team. That’s what you want because there’s young lads coming into the panel now – Conn Sweeney came in there and played the whole game which was great.
“There’s more boys on the bench who have the ability to come into this team. The team against Lisbellaw was a different one from the side that played in the county final and that’s the kind of strength in depth which you need at this level.”
Now Carrickmore are relishing the opportunity to reach their first final in almost a decade. It’s a massive opportunity for the club, and one which all the players are well aware off and the need to make the most of the chances which present themselves.
“The Ulster Championship is always a battle. We had played Lisbellaw earlier on the league and it really took some performance from our lads to get over the line against them,” he added.
“Things weren’t looking good for us at one stage. That was a massively important victory for us, and the way it is we want to be pushing on in Ulster. Now we’ve got that chance. We’re in the semi-final now and we want to keep making strides.”