Ulster Club Intermediate Hurling Championship final
Naomh Eanna (Antrim) v Eoghan Ruadh (Tyrone)
Saturday, Owenbeg, 4pm
A RINGING on-field endorsement of their hurling prowess beckons Dungannon when their bid for a first ever provincial title reaches its climax this weekend.
Recent years have seen the Eoghan Ruadh side endure an Ulster journey peppered by a frustrating series of under-achievements. But now 2019 has the potential to be different.
Yet another Benburb Cup success in September has catapulted them onto the Ulster Intermediate stage.
Victory in the first round and then a win against Keady at the semi-final stage mean that they are entering this final in buoyant mood.
For one player in particular, though, this showpiece occasion at Owenbeg will be extra special. At 40, Terry McIntosh has been a key member of the Eoghan Ruadh team for two decades. No wonder, then, that this Saturday’s clash is one to savour for the former dual star.
Like so many, he has experienced the past disappointments and is relishing this shot at glory and a place on the All-Ireland stage.
“There have been a lot of years which were a struggle, times when we couldn’t get past Carrickmore in the County Final. Realistically, you have to beat them to move on and that’s a key reason why we’ve done so well this season,” he said.
“In the past few years, it has been such a relief for us to win the Tyrone title that we’ve perhaps rested on our laurels in the Ulster Club. I think this year there has been a real determination and resolve to make the most of this opportunity.
“To get to the Ulster Final is a brilliant achievement for the whole team and the club. There’s a real buzz around at the moment. People are talking about the game and it’s a major boost, not just for ourselves in
Eoghan Ruadh by for Dungannon Clarkes and the GAA in the town generally.
“A big thing about the current group of players, and the younger lads especially, is that they’re very ambitious to do well. The standard of hurling among them and the other clubs in Tyrone is just so good at the moment and it’s reflected in how the teams are performing outside the county.
“Our Minors also reached the Ulster Final this year and the fact of having the new hurling pitch is a big advantage for us as well. This final is a reward for all those things being put in place.”
Dungannon’s win over Armagh champions, Keady, in the semi-final was particularly crucial. Over the years, they have consistently held the upper hand over their neighbours from across the county border, but all that changed a few weeks ago.
It means that Colm McGuinness and his players can now look forward to the challenge of meeting Glengormley side, Naomh Eanna in the decider. But it’s set to be an extremely tough one, if previous encounters between the teams in the Antrim league are anything to go by.
Big performance are again anticipated from their main players, including the likes of Damien Casey, Tiarnan Morgan, team captain, Colm Mc- Nally, Matthew Mulgrew and Kiefer Morgan.
Terry McIntosh reckons that of the half-dozen clashes between them in the past year or two, Dungannon have only emerged with one win.
However, that’s a statistic which they’ll be keen to improve upon in this latest and most high profile meeting between them.
“Keady have been a real thorn in our side over the years and St Enda’s are also a very formidable team.
We’ve met them on a number of occasions and we’re well aware of how tough they’ll be,” he added.
“In the semi-final we perhaps could and should have won by more because there were quite a number of missed chances. But at least we’ve got the chance to improve in the final.”
Now, Terry McIntosh, who made his debut for the club at senior level 20 years ago, is preparing for what would undoubtedly be the highlight of a long and distinguished career.
“There have definitely been a lot of heartaches during that time, and then some years I just wasn’t able to commit to the extent that I would have liked. But the excitement of this final is a big highlight for me personally because it has come so late in my career.
“To be honest, I decided to come and try and help the team out, without ever thinking that I’d be reaching the final as part of the starting team. In the past, you knew nearly everybody who was involved in hurling in the club, now there’s a whole new influx of people who are really interested and committed to the team and the game.
“It’s absolutely amazing to be at this stage. I won’t say that it’s my swansong, but I think our progress this year has been testament to all the work that has gone on.”