IT’S a tale of contrasts as Armagh hurling force Middletown brace themselves for Sunday’s trip to challengers Inniskeen (2pm) in the Ulster Intermediate quarter-final.
Inniskeen won their fourth-ever Monaghan hurling crown and a first since 2016 when they upset the odds against a Castleblayney side bidding for seven in-a-row.
It was a hard-fought contest and only one point separated the sides at the final whistle as Inniskeen came up trumps on a scoreline of 1-11 to 0-13.
The hero of the hour was Niall Arthur, who scored 1-6 including 1-2 from play. He was one of the key men on the Monaghan side that won this year’s Lory Meagher tournament, though most of their players are unfamiliar to those not au fait with Monaghan club hurling.
Farney teams generally haven’t fared too well at Intermediate level in Ulster, albeit Inniskeen won the Ulster Junior Hurling Championship all the way back in 2010.
Middletown, by contrast, have oodles of experience at this level, winning Intermediate crowns in 2011 and 2017. They reached last year’s decider, losing to Liatroim Fontenoys by 2-20 to 0-20, and they’ll be quietly confident that they can go one step further this year.
They’re coming into the competition off the back of claiming the five in-a-row in Armagh for the first time in their history and players like Ryan and Dean Gaffney, Odhran Curry and Cahal Carvill need no introduction.
It’s fair to say that they’re big, big favourites to progress but Inniskeen have already shown that they’re more than content with the underdogs tag. Still though, it’s hard to envision anything other than a Middletown victory here.