GAA Football

Mayobridge U21s boss Brendan Grant happy to follow the Crossmaglen template

Michael McMullan

Bank of Ireland Paddy McLarnon Cup (Ulster U21 Club Football Champions Tournament)

WHEN Mayobridge U21s take on Crossmaglen later this month, they will be in safe hands.

Team manager Brendan Grant is a veteran of the club’s golden age, picking up eight championships in a 10-year period from 1999 to 2008.

Grant has inside knowledge of the demands on players, having played with Ireland’s U17s in Australia. Alongside fellow ’Bridge men Benny Coulter, Michael Walsh, Ronan O’Hare and Ronan Sexton, Grant won an All-Ireland with Down minors in 1999.

“It’s good for developing players who aren’t getting senior football,” outlined Grant, on the benefits of the U21 championship.

“It’s always good to play in an Ulster competition but it’s a very hard age group to manage.

“You have university pulling one way and senior club players pulling another. Then you have boys playing with the county U21s. 

“There will be boys pulled into minor trials but you just have work together.”

Beaten by Clonduff in the 2015 decider, Mayobridge bounced back to take last season’s U21 title but as Grant explains, it was a team coming along.

“This team were beaten in the championship final at minor level by Rostrevor, so there was a standard of quality players there and they have eventually got over the line,” Grant highlighted.

“They have beaten a few big teams this year and are starting to believe in themselves and hopefully it will help the seniors next year.”

Grant is assisted this season by Caolan Gallagher who played on the Mayobridge team beaten by Omagh in the 2012 final at Creggan.

“Club football comes in waves, you get a group of players that are very good playing together and then it’s about taking those ingredients to senior level, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t,” Grant explained.

“Luckily enough these boys are coming together, they have bonded as a team and are good mates. We were nine points down after 20 minutes against Clonduff, came back to go six ahead and won by three in the end.

“We played Warrenpoint (Down final) and it could have went either way. They had a man sent off and we took advantage of the numerical advantage and we never lost the lead after that,” added Grant.

The former full-back is looking forward to a first meeting with Crossmaglen since the 0-14 to 0-9 defeat in the 2004 Ulster Club final.

“There’s no better team to measure yourself against than Crossmaglen. They have good tradition up there and it’s something we would like to get in to Mayobridge.

“That level of commitment to the club, unity of the village, everyone coming together as a unit and hopefully we will put our heads down and work hard over the next few weeks.”

Grant was involved at senior level last year but has stepped back to help the youth progress into the senior ranks.

Benny Coulter is the new player/manager of the senior team, assisted by Noel Sexton, Francie Poland and Derry minor assistant manager Killian Conlan. Former Armagh player Stephen Harold is on board to oversee strength and conditioning.

“Kilcoo, Burren and the likes of Bryansford are up there,” commented Grant.

“We are pushing to get up to that level. When we were at the top other teams were pushing so it is no different now.

“We are going to have to raise our levels and try and get up where to the likes of Kilcoo and Burren are at. Every year is a new year and you never know what it brings.”

QUARTER-FINAL SCHEDULE

Sunday, January 15  
Donaghmoyne v Stewartstown

Saturday, January 21
Ramor United v Watty Grahams (12.30pm)
Mayobridge v Crossmaglen (2pm)

Sunday, January 22 (12.30pm)
Aghagallon v Gaoth Dobhair 

GAA Football

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