McCrickard determined Liatroim don't play the occasion as they seek to reverse trend of losing Ulster finals

Liatroim Fontenoys reached the Ulster Club IHC finals in 2006, 2007 and 2008 but lost them all and will be determined to finally get over the line against Middletown on Saturday
Liatroim Fontenoys reached the Ulster Club IHC finals in 2006, 2007 and 2008 but lost them all and will be determined to finally get over the line against Middletown on Saturday

Saturday’s Ulster intermediate final will be new territory for a lot of the Liatroim players, but it won’t be the club's first taste of the big day. The Down side made and lost three finals on the bounce in 2006, 2007 and 2008, and the current crop are hoping to change that record.

Captain Pearse Og McCrickard hopes his team-mates can embrace the occasion, but not lose sight of the final goal. “That feel good factor of winning has been brought back to the club and the boys that we have in, they’ve kept everything low key, they’ve kept our feet on the ground,” said McCrickard.

“At the end of the day, we haven’t really won anything yet. We’re back in the final where we wanted to be but we’re not content with just taking part. Finals aren’t there to be played in, they’re there to be won and we’re no different this year.

“You have to embrace it and take in the occasion as well, we’re a relatively young team so this is new to a lot of boys, and you can see that different players deal with it differently.

“The older players and the management have ensured that everybody remains fully focused on the task at hand. You don’t play the occasion, we’re there to play the game and hopefully on Saturday we’re able to give a good account of ourselves.”

Liatroim are coming into this one off the back of some huge wins over Carryduff in the county final and Castleblayney and Clooney Gales in the provincial series. In those last three outings, Colm Murphy’s men have been putting up huge scoring tallies, but their defensive structure is where the major improves have come this year.

“We knew what we were able to do going forward but we maybe looked at it at the start of the year, that we wanted to be shutting it up a wee bit more on the defensive side.

“Thankfully, to this point, we have been pretty shored up in our defence and that’s probably a testament to Collie (Murphy) and the boys that have come in. I know they put a huge emphasis on defending and it’s obviously paid off.

“Last year we had a big blip, and we didn’t even get to the county final in Down and this year that stood by us and we were able to get over the line.”

McCrickard has been unwavering in front of the posts this season, registering 1-35 in the last three games alone, but it’s a team game and the collective effort of the Liatroim players have taken them to this stage.

“When you lift a newspaper and you look at a team, the majority of the scorers and the people who get the scores are the people that get all the praise. But at the end of the day, we know, and I know it’s the team that wins the frees, it’s the team that gets the ball to you to score and if you look at our scorers from the last game, we had ten different scorers.

“Everybody from eight up scored as well as two defenders. That just shows that we’re not heavily reliant on one or two players, we have a nice balance, and we can rely on anybody for scores.

“I was just in the fortunate position in the county final and in the quarter-final where I happened to be on the end of the majority of the moves. But again, the last day was more pleasing for me because the scores were more evenly shared. At the end of the day, we’re here about Liatroim, we’re not here about anything else.”