By Niall Gartland
CASTLEBLAYNEY hurlers are firmly back on the wagon having slipped to a surprise defeat in the Monaghan Senior Hurling Championship final.
They lost their first final in seven years when they fell narrowly short to Inniskeen, meaning that they’re in a sense demoted to the Ulster Junior Championship.
But they boast a proud record in the competition, are the only club to win it on three separate occasions, and got up and running at the weekend with a first-round win over Antrim representatives Cloughmills.
Next in the pipeline is Cootehill on Sunday, and manager Kevin Molonoy is happy with how his group of players have responded to the disappointment of losing their crown in Monaghan.
“Of course it takes a while to lick your wounds, and a lot of our lads have football commitments so they had that going on as well.
“You’re trying to manage injuries and the workloads of the players, but they’re a great bunch of lads and I wouldn’t have a bad word to say about any of them.
“They give you as much as they can. We have a cohort of players based in Dublin and travelling is a strain for them but they don’t complain about it either.
“They try to row in as best they can and at the same time we try to emphasise that sometimes they have things going on in life that are more important than hurling, we’re very mindful of that.”
‘Blayney have a rich competition in the competition, winning the Ulster Junior title in 2005, 2014 and 2018. Some of their old-timers are still hanging in there, and are worth their weight in gold, while younger players are also coming through the ranks.
“We try our utmost to promote the game at all levels in the club, and bringing in young fellas and keeping them involved is the hardest part of all that.
“But we have a number of youngsters on our starting line-up and we have some old heads as well. Brian McGuigan is holding off his 40th birthday for another year or two, our goalkeeper is of the same vintage.
“One of our subs, James McHugh, has also been around for a long time. Those fellas drive the thing on and set the standards, so they’re equally important to our team.”
Standing in ‘Blayney’s way of a place in the semis are a Cootehill side with bucketloads of experience. They’ve won plenty in Cavan but they’ll relish the opportunity of doing something special in Ulster.
Moloney said: “Cootehill have had two games under their belts. Games are worth three training sessions really.
“We’d know Cootehill well and they’re in a good position having had an extra game, and they’ve plenty of life about them up front.
“We never take anyone for granted but at the same time our main focus is on ourselves. We don’t talk too much about the opposition as if you get too fixated on them then your own game can suffer.”