By Niall Gartland
RYAN ‘BUTCH’ Kelly was the toast of Moortown after landing the winning point in Saturday afternoon’s Ulster Intermediate Championship semi-final against Randalstown.
Kelly had already drawn the sides level with a late point, and even better was to follow he held his nerve in the seventh minute of injury time to bang over a long-range free to send the Tyrone club into a final showdown against Steelstown on January 9.
The free was 50 metres from goal, but Kelly knew he had the distance – it was just a matter of achieving the right connection.
The Moortown skipper said: “It was a difficult enough free-kick I suppose, but when I lifted the ball I knew I had in the locker, it was just whether or not I’d connect well with it. I knew once it left my foot that it was going the whole way.
“When you’ve been hitting frees your whole life you’re always gearing up for something like that to happen. I’ve never been in that position where I could win a game. You could call it pressure or whatever but worst case scenario was that the game would head to extra-time. I just backed myself and that’s all I could do really.”
Moortown won the Tyrone Intermediate Championship final with a fairly comfortable victory over Owen Roes, and they were the better team when they faced Erne Gaels in the first round in Ulster.
Kelly recognises that the tough battle against the Antrim champs should do them good as their Ulster final opponents Steelstown look like a very good team indeed, firing five goals past Butlersbridge at the weekend.
“It was some feeling (beating Randalstown by a point). We probably needed that. We haven’t had a game like that since the Rock game in Tyrone, a game that would show us what we’re made of.”
Asked whether they always intended on giving Ulster a good rattle, he said: “We did, we never really took it as bonus territory. We thought if we missed this opportunity we might never get there again. We always intended on going as far as we could so we’re just glad to be in the final now.”
Moortown haven’t had much success at senior level over the last decade, so Kelly says the Loughshore club are enjoying every moment of their run to the brink of provincial glory.
“The buzz around at the moment is unreal and it’s been like this since before the county final. Everyone’s on cloud nine coming up to Christmas, we’re all raring to go and the craic is class at the moment.”
He also said they should be able to cope well with the three-week wait to the Ulster final as they’ve been in this situation earlier in the campaign.
“We’re back out tonight (Monday) and we’ll reassess things over Christmas. It’ll come round quickly and we had a three-week break before the county semi-final and final as well. We’ll do what we can, but all year we’ve never really had any drink bans so we’ll still enjoy ourselves over Christmas.”