Banagher dual stars hoping to shake off football defeat
Ulster Intermediate Club Hurling Championship quarter-final: Banagher v St Enda's (tomorrow, 2.30pm, Owenbeg)
HE was a frustrated substitute last weekend as Banagher's dreams of a first Derry football final in a generation fizzled out, but Ruairi McCloskey will be hoping to take some of it out on St Enda's tomorrow afternoon.
Having struggled with a groin injury in recent weeks, the St Mary's stalwart is back fit again and will be one of four survivors from the last time Banagher played an Ulster club hurling game.
Then, it was as senior champions in 2005, when they claimed their sole win from a trio of successive deciders against neighbours Kevin Lynch's, only to be beaten by Cushendall in Ulster.
This generation reached three straight senior finals of its own but found a different animal in Slaughtneil, who have led the way at Ulster senior level.
A restructure of Derry championship hurling has offered a way into the intermediate and junior grades for those beaten in the senior grade, and that offers Banagher's legion of duel players something to focus on after a tough week.
“There's nobody sitting in a bar thinking about what might have been,” says McCloskey.
“It's another opportunity. The last time we played in Ulster was 2005, so it's an opportunity for us to achieve something the club's never done before.”
Coming from a famous hurling family of ‘Roes' that has supplied four brothers to Derry and Banagher, Ruairi will be joined by Oisin, Darragh and Tiernan on the pitch at Owenbeg tomorrow.
He's back home living in the granny flat at his parents' house in Banagher, with wife Bridín and young daughters Grainne and Niamh.
Ruairi laughs at using his father Sean's gable wall to beat the ball off – but says it's too easy for some dual players to find an excuse not to hurl enough.
“Football you're training two nights, so you still have three nights, ten minutes off the wall, that's all it takes. Nobody's being asked to go out and kill themselves training, it's just 10 minutes off a wall.
“Being fresh and injury free at this time of year is the biggest thing, the work should be done by now.”
If they're to win Ulster, a fair chunk of the hard work will be tomorrow. St Enda's will look to Antrim senior star Joe Maskey and the likes of Cormac Ross, Killian Jennings and John McGoldrick – who hit 1-9 in the Antrim IHC final win over Carey Faughs - up front.
Banagher's challenge could depend on how the minds have recovered.