Football

History beckons as Cavan's Ballyhaise and Armagh champions Cullyhanna clash in Ulster decider

Glenullin Ryan McNicholl with Aaron Watson of Ballyhaise during the Ulster Club Intermediate Football Championship semi-final at Healy Park. Picture Margaret McLaughlin.
Glenullin Ryan McNicholl with Aaron Watson of Ballyhaise during the Ulster Club Intermediate Football Championship semi-final at Healy Park. Picture Margaret McLaughlin. Glenullin Ryan McNicholl with Aaron Watson of Ballyhaise during the Ulster Club Intermediate Football Championship semi-final at Healy Park. Picture Margaret McLaughlin.

KEVIN Tierney is on the road home from Dublin to Cavan for training. A couple more sessions and the schoolteacher and his Ballyhaise teammates will be ready for Sunday’s Ulster Intermediate Championship final against Armagh’s Cullyhanna.

It’s an opportunity to make history for both clubs. Neither have reached this lofty level before, indeed Cavan’s only previous winners were Ballinagh and no club from Armagh has ever lifted the Patrick McCully Cup.

Tierney has been on the road for a long time with his club. He made his senior debut way back in 2008 and has been through thick and thin with Ballyhaise since.

“I’ve played in seven finals but we’ve only won two of them (2015 and this year) so we’ve suffered a right bit of heartbreak along the way,” he said.

“Myself and Sean McCormack (a former Cavan midfielder) are the two veterans now and it’s great to still be playing football at this time of the year.

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“At the start of the championship we were just looking at Cavan so to be playing now is bonus territory, which is great. We were tipping about in Cavan the last few years – we lost the final last year and the year before – so we had our sights firmly set on winning it this year. it was nearly a sense of relief that we won it and once we got over that (Ballyhaise beat Denn by six points) we turned our focus to Ulster because it is something that we wanted to test ourselves in and see where we are.”

A scorer in the 2011 All-Ireland U21 Championship final against Galway, Tierney bagged two goals in the All-Ireland U21 semi-final against Roscommon the following year. He graduated to the Cavan senior ranks and his experience and quality has proved indispensable for his club throughout this championship run.

He scored two points in the semi-final win over Derry’s Glenullin as Ballyhaise battled back from the brink of defeat. Experienced McCormack made an impact around centrefield when he was introduced and his ball led to a David Brady goal that turned the game and the Cavan men saw off Paddy Bradley’s men by a point.

“It was a strange game because we started well and we had a good first 10 minutes and then they came back into it and went ahead,” Tierney recalled.

“We were four points down even though we had our fair share of the chances but thankfully we got a couple of points back and then David’s goal and we managed to stay ahead. There’s a great buzz about the club now, our ladies’ team did very well too so it’s really been a great year for the club. The green flags are out everywhere and all the signs are up and everyone is wishing us well and even the last day in Omagh the support we had was fantastic. We’re all buzzing now to be playing in an Ulster final.”

Up against Ballyhaise on Sunday is a Cullyhanna side that – with the exception of Tyrone champions Pomeroy - has looked a class above all of their opponents this season. They powered past Down’s Liatriom Fontenoys by 11 points at the semi-final stage and will go into the final as odds-on favourites.

“The bookies have them as favourites and they’ve looked quite impressive,” said Tierney.

“They had a big win in the semi-final too so I’m sure their confidence is going to be high but it’s a final, it’s all on the day and we’re relishing the opportunity and looking forward to getting stuck in.

“Obviously they have Armagh players with good pedigree but we’re looking forward to it.”