By Shaun Casey
PEARSE Óg McCrickard was named on the Joe McDonagh Cup Team of the Year last week for his performances in the red and black of the Down hurlers, just 10 days after kicking 0-8 for the Liatroim footballers as they claimed the Intermediate title in the Mourne County.
A dual star, McCrickard led the Liatroim hurlers to Ulster Intermediate glory last season and this weekend, he’ll replace the hurl for a size five football and look forward to another provincial campaign.
Paddy Murray’s side travel to Brewster Park this weekend to kickstart their Ulster campaign against Fermanagh champions Teemore Shamrocks.
“There’s not very many Teddy McCarthys left,” said Liatroim football manager Murray of McCrickard’s dual talents.
“Brendan Rogers is maybe somebody that springs to mind but there’s nobody else that rolls off the tongue at that level like Brendan and Pearse Óg.
“I suppose Down hurlers and maybe even Down footballers don’t have the profile that maybe Rogers has with Derry, but in terms of Pearse Óg’s talents in hurling and in football, he’s an exceptional player.
“They do tell me that he’s the best hurler in Down and maybe that’s right, it’s possibly up for debate but I’ve seen most if not all footballers in Down and he’s definitely up there.
“If you had six forwards to line out on a field, he’s definitely in the top six in county Down. There’s no two ways about that.”
Hailing from Kilcoo, Murray is no stranger to the Ulster Championship, while the Liatroim hurlers toppled the province last year. Still, for the footballers within the team and the club as a whole, it’s something new and exciting.
Liatroim do have some history in the competition having won it way back in 1998, the first year of its existence.
“For the vast majority of the team, even the county final was a new venture,” added Murray, whose side saw off Rostrevor by two points in the Down decider.
“Ulster is going to be a new challenge for them but they’re right up for it. I think must clubs whenever they set out, whilst they would probably target their league and the championship, none of them really would be targeting Ulster.
“I genuinely don’t think there’s any club competition better than Ulster and whenever you’re in it, it’s so enjoyable. You’re into the bigger pitches, the officials and all that adds up to a better spectacle.
“It’s the freedom, the players will get the freedom to play in the bigger pitches and the monkeys are all off their backs and they can just go out now and express themselves.
“It’ll be interesting to see what we’re coming up against and nine times out of ten if you’re coming up against a better team then you’ll come up short but if you’re able to go out there and express yourself and execute a game-plan, you can get a run in this competition.”