By Niall Gartland
COOTEHILL boss Michéal Boyle says his side are in bonus territory ahead of Sunday’s Ulster Junior Championship semi-final against Castleblayney.
Before this season, they’d never so much as won a game in Ulster but now they’ve won two on the bounce with a preliminary round win over Killeavy backed up with a comprehensive win over Belleek in the quarters.
They won’t be getting carried away, however: Castleblayney are a hardened side at this level and as a county Cavan have never produced an Ulster Junior Hurling champion.
But Cootehill are certainly pushing in the right direction, recently wrapping up the three in-a-row in Cavan and they have a potent mixture of youth and experience.
Boyle said: “When we started off this year our goal was to at least try to contest and get over our line in a match in Ulster, something the club hadn’t done in its history.
“At this stage we are in bonus territory but we have been going well. A lot of the present team came through the underage ranks in Cootehill, we have seven of the lads who won the Tom Hogan Celtic Challenge in 2021 and we have a few seasoned intercounty campaigners – boys like Mark Moffett, Diarmuid Carney, Thomas Leonard, Niall Clerkin and Enda Shalvey.”
Cootehill won their first three-in-a-row in Cavan in the period 2014-2016, Mullahoran were comfortably the dominant force in subsequent years before Cootehill wrestled back the trophy in 2021.
Boyle said: “The lads keep at it, they like the hurling and I suppose it’s our job to keep it going.”
They go into this weekend’s game as underdogs but Boyle says they’ll give it their best shot.
“Castleblayney have won it three times in their history and we’re well aware of the task that’s ahead of us, but we want to give a good account of ourselves. We do have a few injury doubts and we’re hoping a few of the guys who didn’t feature last Saturday will be in contention to play.”