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GAA Football

Boss Shane Mulholland urges Rostrevor to learn from his mistakes

Rostrevor's Brian Keenan and Shaun Parr close in on Gary Merrit during the Reds' Ulster IFC semi-final win over Milford. Picture by Bill Smyth
Neil Loughran

SHANE Mulholland knows what it is to live with regret, and has warned his Rostrevor players to avoid suffering the same fate as they prepare for Sunday’s Ulster IFC final against Tyrone champions Moy.

Former Down forward Mulholland was part of the Ballyholland Harps teams that landed county intermediate titles in 1999 and 2003, only to fall flat once they hit the provincial track.

“We just thought it was a day out for the craic,” he says ruefully, “but we deeply regret that now, that we didn’t give it a proper go. Now this runs to an All-Ireland series so there’s something significant in it.

“At the start of the year we [Rostrevor] didn’t really want to be in an intermediate championship, there was no real passion for it, but then a final comes along and it’s nice to have a medal in your pocket to look back on at the end of your career, no matter what it is.

“We’ve brought that into the provincial games and the players have taken it very seriously because we want to win it. It feels as if we’re in the right place at the minute.”

Having dropped down to the intermediate grade for the first time in the club’s history, a period of adjustment was to be expected.

With a target on their backs, they have started every game so far this year as favourites to win, with a couple of slips along the road.

Sunday’s final, though, finds them starting in the rare position of underdogs against the Tyrone men.

And that suits Mulholland just fine.

“We’re delighted with that,” he continued.

“Expectations have been high all along, we’ve been favourites for every game, but now the bookies have us as outsiders and they don’t often get it wrong.

“There’s a Cavanagh furore around the thing too and probably some people are thinking ‘well, if they’ve got those two, they must be better’, but we’re quietly confident about what we can do.”

Sean and Colm Cavanagh may be the names that come to most readily to people’s minds when they think of the Moy, and the famous brothers have been central to the club reaching an Ulster final in its first provincial campaign.

But hotshot Harry Loughran has been doing the bulk of the scoring, and – as a man who knows a decent forward when he sees one - Mulholland is hoping the Tyrone panellist won’t have too big a say on Sunday.

“Harry Loughran is as big a threat as the two Cavanaghs.

“He’s not on the Tyrone panel for the craic – he’s there on merit and obviously we’ve seen what he can do, so he will need watched. If we don’t watch him, we could be in trouble because he has an eye for goal.

“But Moy have got that big time mentality in their changing room – the bigger the game is, the more some of those boys will rise to it.

“We just hope we have our homework done, our match-ups right, and that our players go out and thrive. We would also hope that the referee doesn’t have too big a say in the game.

“But we can only control the controllables. We’ve been talking about no regrets all year, so hopefully there’s no regrets on Sunday evening.”

With Down’s flying wing-back Caolan Mooney among their ranks, Rostrevor aren’t exactly without big names themselves.

But Mulholland insists the collective effort of his Reds panel, and the sacrifices they have made, stands them in good stead for the weekend.

He said: “I don’t live in the village but I’m in and out of it and there’s a good buzz about the place, lots of well-wishers.

“Last Wednesday night we had 34 at training, which is our full panel. Every other week somebody’s been working or somebody couldn’t make it, but when a big final comes along everybody wants to be involved.

“It’s a good place to be this week.”

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