Portaferry aiming for more after Ulster triumph

By Kieran Lynch

PORTAFERRY are Ulster Intermediate champions for the first time following their nail-biting 1-13 to 2-9 victory over Eglish last weekend.

Their manager Tom McMahon spoke to Gaelic Life about what he thought of the win and looked ahead to what’s next for his side.

“It probably hasn’t sunk in yet,” said McMahon, discussing his emotions after winning the Ulster title.

“It’s massive for the girls; they were elated, and they couldn’t believe that they’d won it.

“Especially because this is the first year that they’ve won a Down Championship, so to go on and win the Ulster in the same season is incredible.”

As referenced by McMahon, the year was already cemented as a major one in Portaferry camogie history, as in November they claimed a first ever Down Senior Championship, and they have been riding the crest of a wave ever since.

McMahon was asked as to whether winning the Ulster Championship was something his team could have imagined at the start of the campaign.

“No,” he said. “We were beaten by Ballycran in the first round-robin game, and after that we had to sit down and have an honest discussion about what way the season was going to be.

“Our backs were against the wall and after that game, every game was a knockout. We couldn’t afford to lose again.

“In fairness to them, they’ve worked extremely hard ever since. That’s what we have been preaching to the girls – if you work hard, you’ll get your rewards, and thankfully it has turned out like that.”

Portaferry’s task in the Ulster final was a daunting one as they faced Eglish, a side who had captured four of the previous six Ulster Intermediate crowns.

“It was unbelievable,” said McMahon. “They’re a big, strong, physical team with plenty of experience, so we certainly didn’t underestimate the challenge, but we were confident in our own ability.”

Portaferry’s Xfactor is Niamh Mallon, who scored all eight points in their win over Liatroim and bagged 0-11 in the Down Champions’ win in the Ulster final. McMahon acknowledged Mallon’s deadeye accuracy, but reminded that camogie is a team game.

“Having a free-taker is crucial, and if you look back over the game, Niamh popped up with most of our points.

“But the backline has also been immense. They probably dug us out of trouble in the Down final against Liatroim and they’ve been very solid ever since.”

Next up for Portaferry is a clash with Galway’s Kinvara in the All-Ireland semi-final, and McMahon is choosing to be ambitious about what the future holds for his team, looking to fellow Down side Clonduff for inspiration.

“We’ll focus on the semi-final first,” said McMahon.

“We’ll go again and work hard and see where it takes us in three weeks. We’re going up another level and we’re hoping we can adjust and adapt on the day.

“Clonduff give us inspiration, as they won the All-Ireland three years ago, so it can be done.

“It’s a big ask, but we’re willing to give it our best shot.”

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