Cloughmills and Coleraine looking to atone for past pain in Ulster final
AIB Ulster Club Intermediate Hurling Championship final: St Brigid’s, Cloughmills (Antrim) v Eoghan Rua, Coleraine (Derry) (tomorrow, Ballymena, 1pm)
ATONEMENT or further agony are the prizes on offer as Cloughmills and Coleraine clash in Ballymena tomorrow in the Ulster Intermediate Hurling final.
Only one team can take each of those prizes and by the end of play, barring a draw, there will be a real contrast in emotions as the sides try to avoid a repeat of their previous final loss in this competition.
The Antrim side were first to experience that pain four years ago as they lost out to Lisbellaw by seven points while Rossa were much too strong for Coleraine in 2014.
The Derry outfit were able to bounce back to claim the junior title last year, but their hopes of back-to-back provincial crowns have been hindered by the fact that they will definitely be without one, and possibly three, of their star players from last year’s team.
Sharp-shooter Ciaran Gailie is a long-term absentee due to ligament damage while Barry McGoldrick had to be carried off early on in the comprehensive 1-18 to 2-4 semi-final victory over Bredagh. His younger brother Sean Leo also had to depart with a knee injury late in the game.
Managers Joe Passmore and Sean McGoldrick know all too well how important it is to have those two available. The elder McGoldrick is the rock in the heart of the defence while Sean Leo had contributed 11 points, including four from play, before his departure seven minutes from time two weeks ago.
The Eoghan Rua hurling panel is not exactly blessed with large numbers, so any loss is significant.
What the Bredagh match did show was that they have some promising young players coming through, and the likes of Michael McQuillan and Ruairi Mooney have given them a new dimension in the half-forward line.
Cloughmills have had to play two provincial games to reach the final, but those battles with Carrickmore and Keady should leave them well cooked for the decider.
Goals proved crucial in both of those games as strikes from Liam Cassley and Owen Kinney (below) saw off a wasteful Carrickmore while James Doherty’s fortunate strike settled the issue against the Armagh side.
What Cloughmills have is a really good spread of scorers. Cassley, Kinney and Doherty are regular contributors to the scoreboard while Liam Kearns and Michael Devlin also add plenty to the team’s scoring tally – the latter is also a real threat from sideline cuts too.
Imposing half-back Aaron Smiley, who is having a superb season for the St Brigid’s club, also likes to get forward to support the attack while overall they have been defensively solid, especially against Keady.
Current boss Geoff Laverty was also in charge four years ago when they lost out to Lisbellaw, so the desire to make amends isn’t just confined to the players.
They’ve maintained a large portion of that team too. Of the players that featured against the Fermanagh side, 13 saw action in the semi-final win over Keady.
Coleraine’s pain may have subsided given last year’s run to the All-Ireland junior final, but Cloughmills should still be hurting from their previous loss in this competition. That may just give them the edge to get over the line.