Loughinisland have eye on Ulster Intermediate final berth
FATE wasn’t on the side of Loughinisland manager Jerome Johnston when a coin-toss earmarked his native Kilcoo’s Ulster SFC semi-final against Crossmaglen for Páirc Esler on Sunday.
The alternative outcome was a trip to the Athletic Grounds – coincidentally the same location where Loughinisland take on Monaghan champions Doohamlet for a chance to reach the Ulster Intermediate final.
And with both matches starting at 2.30pm on Sunday, Johnston will have to miss out on the latest instalment of the Kilcoo and Crossmaglen rivalry – but if that’s a source of irritation, he’s not letting on.
“To be completely honest, it’s a great problem to have. I’d love to be supporting my own club team Kilcoo with my sons [Jerome jr and Ryan] playing but at the end of the day it’s part and parcel of the GAA – you take whatever hand you’re dealt and that’s it,” Johnston said.
Loughinisland have had a year to remember regardless of whether Sunday ends in victory or defeat. Their convincing victory over An Riocht (3-11 to 0-8) in the county final clinched a maiden intermediate title, and Johnston, a former selector under James McCartan with Down, understands how much the win meant to the club.
“There’s no doubt about it, outside of Dan Gordon, these boys would not have played in a lot of finals.
“Dan’s the exception obviously, playing with Down in the 2010 All-Ireland final and Ulster and Railway Cup finals, but outside of him it’s relatively new to all the boys.”
Johnston, in his first year in charge of Loughinisland, has witnessed a series of masterful displays from Gordon in their charge through Down and Ulster. Still only 32, the vastly experienced midfielder was particularly prominent against An Riocht and in the Ulster first-round victory against Greenlough, but Johnston isn’t taking any personal credit for his performances.
“I think it’s just because he’s been playing regular club football and he’s been able to stay – touch-wood – injury-free. Dan’s a man that’s enjoying himself and if you enjoy yourself no matter what you do at life you’ll probably excel at it.”
As for whether Gordon could make a return to the intercounty colours, Johnston commented: “That’s a question you would need to ask Dan Gordon. Personally I would love it, I’m a Down man through and through and have been involved with the Down team with wee James but Dan’s his own man.”
Loughinisland have also been able to call upon the high-scoring exploits of Rory Mason and a defence that limited Edendork to only one point in the first-half of the Ulster semi-final. However, Johnston reports that the selection of dual star Gareth Johnson is touch and go after he injured his right knee against the Tyrone champions.