Rafferty happy to put in the hard yards on dark nights as Galbally chase provincial glory
LIAM Rafferty and his Galbally team-mates won't utter a word of complaint about the dark winter evenings they'll spend on the training field.
Ulster club football, a privilege that just a handful of teams get to experience each season, is something the Tyrone men intend to savour.
Following a seven-goal rout of Glenullin at the weekend, they're preparing to take on Dungloe in the IFC semi-final, with confidence and ambition coursing through their veins.
“To be training at this time of year in Tyrone is great, and we're really looking forward to the next round,” said Rafferty.
“Winning the championship, after being written off, has given us a big boost in confidence, and we just want to represent Tyrone as well as we can.”
“We'll put our shoulder to the wheel and get ready for this Donegal team.”
Galbally have developed a fondness for Celtic Park, scene of a comprehensive Ulster Club IFC semi-final win over St Naul's of Donegal in 2019, and three years on, they returned to the stadium to turn on the style against the Derry champions.
And there's every chance that the Derry city venue will be chosen by the Ulster Council to host their meeting with the current Donegal title-holders on the weekend after next.
“It definitely helped. We played in Celtic Park in 2019, we knew what to expect, and what to expect from Glenullin.
“Sometimes coming into Ulster you don't know what you're going to get, you don't know each player. You have to go and find out about them, you have to do the research, and luckily we have got backroom staff who do a lot of work behind the scenes on key players, and all credit to them.”
The Pearse's were ruthless in their dismantling of Glenullin's challenge last weekend, netting three first half goals to take control of the tie, and adding four more after the break.
“We're delighted to finish the game like that. There was real good score-taking,” said centre forward who netted his side's seventh and final goal.
“Somebody said to me that we finished with just two wides, but you won't get that every day. It was just our day today, things went well.
“The goals came at the right time. When Glenullin were coming back a bit, we just went up and our forwards were brilliant – Barry Carberry, Daniel Kerr, Conor Donaghy and Sean Murphy, all taking on their men.
“In the first half we were playing against a strong breeze, and we were very happy to go in nine points up. The goals made a lot of difference, there were some great finishes. You won't get that every day, but thankfully we got them today.”
And manager Paddy Crozier, a Derry man, was able to provide valuable insights into the strengths of Glenullin.
“Paddy's wealth of knowledge of football is unreal, and we're so lucky to have him and Joey and the rest of the backroom team. they're really working very hard this year and training has been excellent.
Rafferty was surprised at the amount of space which opened up in the Glenullin defence.
“We probably were surprised at how open things were at the back. They left a bit of space for inside forwards, and on most occasions it was one v one, and that worked out well for us.
“We were playing with the wind in the first half and Glenullin put on a high press. To beat that press, we had one v one, and we were away.”