Ulster club hurling intermediate championship final
Naomh Eanna (Antrim) v Eoghan Ruadh Dungannon (Tyrone)
Saturday, Owenbeg, 4pm
TERENCE McNaughton wasn’t best pleased with Naomh Éanna’s Ulster Championship semi-final win over Bredagh – and that could potentially spell trouble for their Ulster final opponents Eoghan Ruadh.
They were forced to pull out all the stops in extra-time to fend off the challenge of the Down champions by 0-18 to 0-16. A little too close for comfort, and Sambo was disappointed that complacency had creeped in ahead of the match.
“I wasn’t happy with our attitude before the Bredagh game. We weren’t as focused as we were against Banagher in our first match against Ulster.
“In hindsight it was probably a good thing. It brought us back down to earth and we realised where we’re really at.
“The fact is if we play like that against Eoghan Ruadh we’re going to be beaten. We played them twice in the Antrim leagues and know they’re capable of beating us.
“We won both those matches but it’s hard to beat a team three times ina-row.”
If this sounds a little too doom and gloomy, it’s not the intention. The Naomh Éanna footballers won last year’s Ulster Intermediate title, and with their hurlers on the cusp of doing likewise, it’s been some 12 months for the Glengormley-based club.
Mc- Naughton says the club has rowed in behind them ahead of their latest bash at provincial glory.
“Last year there was a lot of hype for the footballers but I think everyone’s getting behind the hurlers as well.
“I’ve never worked with any other club other than Cushendall so it’s a new experience for me. There’s not actually much of a crossover in the club, only four or five of my players are involved with the footballers.”
Naomh Éanna have a few niggly injuries to contend with after bruising battles in Ulster against Banagher and Bredagh.
Cormac Ross, Mark Donaghy, CJ Jennings and Manus Mullan are carrying knocks, and McNaughton says decisions will be made tonight (Thursday) if they’re likely to start on Saturday.
They’ve only been beaten once all season, in a league match against Sarsfields, so they’ll be confident of victory no matter what team they put out.
“We were beaten at the very start of the year by Sarsfields but since then we’ve been playing well. It’s all about progression at the end of the day. I’ve always believed a team grows over a period of time, you can’t just flick a switch and expect things to happen.
“St Enda’s will have to grow more in the years to come if they’re to compete with the Cushendalls, Dunloys and Loughgiels of this world.”
Some teams and counties are stereotyped as being blessed with players with particularly good stickwork.
In Antrim, the likes of Cushendall and Dunloy operate on a higher plane to the rest, but Sambo has been impressed by the talent that exists within Naomh Eanna.
“The lads are up there and they’re getting better all the time. The more they play in high intensity games, the more they’ll improve.”
The vast majority of the team’s players are natives of the area, but there are a couple of notable exceptions, including Mark Donaghy, a Glengormley-based teacher who lives a stone’s throw from the club pitch, and Fermanagh’s Ryan Bogue, was who was selected in the ‘Champions 15’ selection for his performances in the Nicky Rackard Cup a couple of years ago.
Sunday is a massive day for every squad member, but Sambo thinks it’s a shame that the pitches tend to be in poor nick at this time of year. Let’s hope Saturday’s venue – Owenbeg – bucks that particular trend.
“I just hope the surface is good, the last couple have been poor but it’s winter hurling at the end of the day. No pitch plays the way it does in August and you just have to get on with it.
“Conditions weren’t good against Bredagh. Personally I don’t think winter hurling really works but you’re a victim of success at this time of year and there’s no point complaining. If it’s a bad pitch it’ll be the same for both of us.”