CATHERINE McGOURTY: The usual suspects

IT’S that time of year again when we begin to see county finals take place across the country.
Around the Ulster scene so far we have seen Crosserlough crowned champions of Cavan, Granemore are top dogs in Armagh and Loughgiel declared Antrim champions. Eglish will also represent Tyrone in Ulster while Sleacht Néill aim to add another title when they take on their near rivals Swatragh on Sunday week (October 30). Meanwhile, Clonduff and Liatriom battle it out to become the champions of Down on the same day.
When you look at the teams above, we are again seeing a lot of familiar faces still competing at this late stage of the year. Even though they are all senior teams in their counties, they will not all compete in the Ulster Senior Club Championship. Cavan champions Crosserlough will compete in the Ulster Junior A championship against Derry intermediate champions Glen, with the Down Intermediate champions, Brídíní Óg (Antrim Intermediate champions) and Granemore of Armagh joining them.
In the Ulster Junior B competition we have the Intermediate Champions from Armagh, Tyrone and Cavan all competing against the Monaghan champions. It is really great to see club teams from Monaghan competing at this stage and if they take the lead from the massive work done with camogie in Cavan, I hope to see them benefit when representing at the intercounty stage next year.
After this it gets a wee bit more confusing with the Down Champions taking on Eglish (Tyrone) in the Ulster Intermediate competition. All three teams left at this stage are well used to this stage of competition and really it will come down to who performs best on thy day.
When I say this is where it is confusing, I am really talking about why Down, who are a senior graded county team, play at intermediate level in the club scene. Having played against both Clonduff and Liatriom in this year’s championship, I definitely believe that either team is more than good enough to compete and challenge strongly at Ulster senior level and I have no doubt Eglish would do the same.
On the other hand, you also have the Derry champions who will take part in the Ulster Senior Club Championship this year against Loughgiel (Antrim) even though Derry are graded as an intermediate county team. Of course we have seen the dominance of Sleacht Néíll in Ulster and All Ireland stage, so it is no wonder they opt to play at this level, however they would have to get past local rivals Swatragh.
The winners face familiar senior club finalists Loughgiel who will be looking to dethrone a Derry club, by adding an Ulster club championship, following their ninth Antrim title in a row.
For the past few years we have generally seemed to be watching the same teams competing at this stage of the club campaign. It is great to see this big push being made at grass roots level, and the work being put in by these clubs. But will this trend continue? I supposed the rest of us hope not.
Therefore it is important we learn from these teams and begin to step up. Growing and building from the ground level up is key, involving senior players, having them stand up as role models and helping young players develop.
To all those teams still competing – good luck. I look forward to watching some great battles unfold and may the best team win.

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