All-Ireland Junior Football Championship quarter-final
Eoghan Rua (Derry) v John Mitchel’s (Birmingham)
Sunday, Celtic Park, 1pm
EOGHAN Rua joint-manager Brendan McNicholl believes that they will still have enough time to prepare adequately for their All-Ireland quarter-final with John Mitchel’s this weekend.
The Coleraine outfit will be back out at Celtic Park just a week after their Ulster final win over Newry Shamrocks due to their original clash being postponed, but McNicholl is not overly concerned by the short turnaround.
“Our preparation will be something similar to the Shamrocks,” said McNicholl, who is joint-manager with Sean McGoldrick.
“You don’t know a massive amount but you know about certain individuals who play for Down in regards the Shamrocks and in this case you know about some individuals who play with Warwickshire.
“You can look up and see who plays for who and check who their stronger players are.
“There is a wee bit of an unknown there and then you had the postponement of the Ulster final so we’re out again very soon.
“It’s not a big deal though, it’ll not be too different to the last day.”
Many of the Eoghan Rua players have experience of this stage of the competition having defeated Fullen Gaels by eight points back in 2015.
They reached that point courtesy of an easy victory over Ballela in the Ulster Junior final.
It was Down opposition again this year, but although eight points separated the sides at full-time, the match was much closer with Shamrocks playing the majority of the second half with 14 men while Dara Mooney grabbed the goal’s only goal in the final moments.
McNicholl wasn’t surprised by the ferocity of the challenge in Dungannon.
“We came through the weaker side of the draw, no disrespect to the Monaghan or Cavan teams,” he said.
“Everybody had made Gort na Mona favourites to win this competition, they were flying and winning everything in Antrim.
“Maybe they took their eye off the ball, I don’t know, but Shamrocks came through that tough side and we had full respect for that.
“They had Armagh, Antrim and Donegal on their side, that was a touch section and there were plenty of tough games.
“They came into the game with better preparations when it came to games. We were easing off in ours and knew we would have to up the tempo.
“It wasn’t something we were worried about, we knew we had the hurlers to do that.”
McNicholl, who was quick to also praise the impact of coach Joe Passmore, reiterated that it was a special group of players currently lining out for Coleraine.
“I’m very confident in this group of players,” he said. “We have 21 or 22 players there and it’s a tight-knit unit.
“We played in the Derry League and we played against all the big teams.
“We played against Slaughtneil and I know they were missing a few but so were we and they threw on a few more senior players at half-time and it’s a game we could have won.
“We played against tough teams and that prepared us well for the championship. We were disappointed to lose against Swatragh (Qualifier) and it’s probably a game we should have won.
“We have been competing with the best in Derry and there is a really great group of players there.
John Mitchel’s are preparing for Ulster opposition for the second year in succession following their four-point loss to Castleblayney last November.
They retained their provincial crown with a 4-8 to 1-12 over Fullen Gaels last week, their final also called off the week before due to poor conditions. The match was tight throughout but Mitchel’s hit three goals in the second half to secure back-to-back titles.
McNicholl had said that the physicality of last weekend’s final had left some players sore, but he expects everyone to be fit and available for selection.
“We had a few niggles from the game, it was a tough, physical encounter. There were a lot of tussles for the breaking ball and you can pick up strains and pulls there, but we’re not too bad.”