FLYING the flag for Armagh hurling may be a new development for most of the Middletown squad, but for Ryan Gaffney it’s a part of everyday life.
The team captain is the only hurling coach employed by the Armagh county board, compared to three full-time football coaches. His job sees him go around the primary schools in the county spreading the gospel of the small ball.
The extra focus on the small ball is nothing new to Middletown, and with a healthy Middletown contingent on board the county senior hurlers reached the Ulster senior hurling final for the first time last summer.
“The aim is quite simply to promote hurling in the county, to let them know what it’s all about, and to give them as many opportunities as possible to play the game. There has definitely been a big improvement in things, and a lot more kids are finding it easier to play hurling now than they would have done when we were younger. A lot more is being done to get young fellas playing hurling, and it’s definitely working.”
It all means that Gaffney’s life really is hurling, both in a working and social sense. Luckily for him, it’s something he’s incredibly good at.
His performances as the focal point of the Middletown attack were one of the decisive factors in helping them to secure Armagh and Ulster honours, before seeing off hot favourites Effin from Limerick in the semi-final to book their passage in this weekend’s All-Ireland Intermediate decider.
This weekend’s final against Mount Leinster Rangers has been all-encompassing, there’s no getting away from it, but Gaffney is doing his best to keep his feet firmly on the ground.
“It’s great to get playing for your club out in Croke Park, representing your club, county and province in an All-Ireland final. It’s something that never leaves you, you’re always aware of it.
“We’re trying as best we can to approach it just like any other game, just worrying about playing our own game and getting a result. I don’t think it will faze us, even though we’re all aware of the importance of this game.”
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