Final battle won't be child's play for Middletown insists Carvill
MIDDLETOWN needed extra-time to eventually shake off Tyrone champions Eire Og in their dramatic Ulster IHC semi-final to book their spot in Saturday’s showpiece, their first appearance in the final since 2017.
Their nerve-jangling victory ignited scenes of pure delight as the Middletown faithful flooded onto the Athletic Grounds turf to embrace their heroes.
It didn’t take long for attention to turn towards the final, where they face Down champions Liatroim, but for a brief moment, joint-captain Cahal Carvill took in their achievement.
“It was amazing,” said Carvill, who leads the team alongside Ryan Gaffney. “For me, I just had a first born a couple of months ago and we had a wee boy and even to get pictures with him on the field was really special for myself and my wife and my whole wider family.
“That translates across all of the players. Ryan Gaffney’s wife is actually due on Thursday but we’re hoping she can hold on for a few days!”
That community spirit sparked by the last four win has carried through over the last two weeks.
“But this game (the final) isn’t just about the players on the field or the subs that come on or management, this is about a whole community, who we are and who we’re representing. This has been a rollercoaster year for us.
“We’ve had the massive highs, we’ve had massive lows as well but one thing throughout that whole process, we’re as tightknit a team as I’ve ever played on. We’ll do anything for each other, and I think that translates through the games.
“When we’re in a tough spot and we’re in a tight corner, we’re able to rely on each other and when you look in front of you or behind you, you know that guy isn’t going to let you down.
“Against Carrickmore, people maybe put it down to luck or experience and all that, but we just don’t know when we’re beat. I think that’s a good trait that we’ve build up over years. There is that community behind us and we want to do them proud, and Saturday is another opportunity to do that.”
While all the focus will be directed to 1pm on Saturday, win, lose or draw, the excitement of this week will live on through the younger generation, who the Middletown men continue to inspire.
Carvill will line out at full forward this weekend, hoping to pick up his third Ulster IHC medal following successes of 2011 and 2017. But as the years crack on, Carvill knows to have a deeper appreciation of days like this. They don’t come along every year.
“It’s been brilliant (the build up to the final), personally I have really enjoyed it. I suppose being one of the older statesmen of the team, I know not to take this for granted and this doesn’t happen every year. The whole community has really gotten in behind us, juveniles, the underage, families, it’s really galvanised the entire community which has been brilliant.
“It’s really good for us as players to be role models for the younger generation and it is about that. I’m looking back on my career maybe and I want to leave the club in a better place than when I started and bring those young fellas through and keep that conveyor belt going.
“I think we have established that Middletown is synonymous with hurling, and we want to keep that going. For me it would be the cherry on top if we were to manage to get over the line on Saturday.”