GAA Football

Last season's championship defeat was our motivation: Clann Eireann boss Tommy Coleman

Clann Eireann boss Tommy Coleman Picture: Mark Marlow

CLANN Eireann boss Tommy Coleman believes the scars of last season's county championship defeat to Maghery were their motivation as they advance deeper into Ulster Club Championship in their debut season.

Trailing by six points at half-time to Antrim champions Kickham's Creggan at the weekend, the Lurgan men were transformed in the second half and subsequent two periods of extra-time to see off their opponents.

Goals from Ruairi McDonald and Daniel Magee shifted the tie in Clann Eireann's favour.

The Armagh champions' greater fitness levels proved crucial at Corrigan Park as Coleman's men kept chipping away at Creggan's commanding 0-8 to 0-2 half-time lead.

Tiernan Kelly landed a stoppage-time equaliser before the Armagh champions outscored their opponents 8-5 in extra-time.

Having beat Crossmaglen Rangers in the county decider and now Creggan, Clann Eireann will tackle Derrygonnelly on Sunday December 19 in an intriguing provincial semi-final.

“We wanted to prepare them right for the championship because last year we felt we left it behind when Maghery beat us by a point in extra-time and we thought we were close," said Coleman.

"So we worked on getting our fitness levels up again, we worked extremely hard. The boys have been through the mill and we said to them going out for the last 10 minutes: ‘That's what all that hard work was about.'

"At times during the year, the players would ask you: ‘Why are we doing this?' We told them: 'This is the reason why you were doing it,' and they got their rewards."

Clann Eireann celebrated their first county title in 58 years last month while Kickham's Creggan ended their championship search of 67 years.

Both camps partied hard after their respective victories – but judging on Sunday's evidence, the Armagh champions made better use of their three-week break between games.

“We celebrated the county championship and rightly so,” Coleman said.

“There's no point in winning and not celebrating. We gave the boys three or four days off and we went back at it again on the Sunday.

“We told the boys to get off the celebrations and get a couple of recovery sessions in. We had to two full weeks. The three-week break was perfect for us; it really was really perfect.”

Like against Crossmaglen in the county final, Clann Eireann threw caution to the wind when they fell behind by six points to Creggan at the break.

“We told them not to panic at half-time,” Coleman said.

“It was the exact same situation as the 'Cross match, only we'd more time. We just decided there and then we're going to push up, we abandoned any sweeper systems and just went man-for-man.

“We pressurised Creggan high up the field and turned the ball over. We totally and utterly believe in the boys.

“They have been working so hard and over the last couple of years. We came in and probably just put the roof on, just a wee bit of structure. We had it in the legs, we knew we did.”

Clann Eireann had incredible performances on every line of the team on Sunday with Barry McCambridge, Adam Kelly, Tiernan Kelly, Daniel Magee, veteran Ryan Henderson and Jack Conlon playing the shirt off their backs, while Conor Turbitt worked for every ball he won off Creggan full-back Ricky Johnston.

“There's been a great community spirit in Lurgan since we won the county championship,” said Colenman.

“It's a long time since the county championship came to Lurgan. Clann na Gael, our crosstown rivals, won it 27 years ago. So it's given the town a superb lift. We said to the boys that we were going to give it everything we have in Ulster.

“We are representing not only our members in our club but representing the town, representing our county as champions. We owe to it every Gael to give it our best shot and that's what we'll be doing.”

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