By Michael McMullan
EOGHAN Rua can compete with every team in Derry apart from Ulster champions Sleacht Néill insists Leo Passmore.
The 2015 and 2019 Ulster junior champions caused a shock to overcome Lavey and secure a place in the intermediate semi-finals thanks to Passmore’s late goal in a 1-8 haul that also included their late insurance point.
The Portstewart-based club reached the 2016 All-Ireland final and now have their sights aimed higher.
“It’ll be good craic anyway…we’ll see what happens,” Passmore said of their chances of pushing on.
A laid back character, he was goalkeeper as Derry u-17 hurlers won back to back Celtic Challenge titles. After being part of the Derry senior squad, he has been operating outfield with 2-18 to his name this season.
Two Niall Holly goals kept Eoghan in touch on Saturday as Lavey led 0-14 to 2-6 at half time. The first goal was a rasper to the top corner early on, with the second changing the complexion of the game on the cusp of half time.
“We chase every ball; we go for them and put teams under pressure,” he said. “Some teams have better hurling than us, but we put ourselves in there and it keeps us in the game.
“Against everyone bar Sleacht Néill, we could give everyone a good game and keep going right to the end. We had a close game with Dungiven (Kevin Lynch’s) as well.”
There was more urgency in the Eoghan Rua performance, backing up the narrative that on their day, they can hurl with anyone.
Former player Kieran Lagan took over as manager this season and Saturday’s performance was laced with determination.
Passmore also hinted at some lip from an opponent firing up Niall Holly to shoot 2-2 in a memorable win.
“Holly, and he know it himself, he needs a slap to get going”, Passmore joked of his experienced teammate.
“You could see that as soon as he got the ball, he knew what he was doing and no one can stop him…he is serious once you can get him going,” he said in reference to his powerful run leading to their second goal.
It was an improvement on their previous games against Banagher and Ballinascreen in the group stages when they left themselves too much to do after being slow out of the blocks.
“It’s mostly in the second half when we get a kick on,” Passmore admits. “We are never good in the first half, maybe we are slow starters
“Once the second half comes, I think is the fitness of the boys from the football and their work ethic.
“They just keep going and driving on in close games and you can see it makes a difference. We keep on going to the end and there is no quitting.
“Today was a bit better in the first half, grabbing two goals. It was Holly going straight…it wasn’t much about the team it was Holly doing it and that’s what we needed in the first half.”
Eoghan Rua play Swatragh in the semi-final but off the pitch club officials have been pouring their efforts into their Grand Development Draw.
They are raising funds for a second pitch to help create a club for the future, from the local children at fundamentals to their senior teams across all four codes.