Bredagh will hope to take revenge on Eoghan Rua
Ulster Intermediate Club Hurling Championship semi-final: Eoghan Rua, Coleraine (Derry) v Bredagh (Down) (today, 2.30pm, Loughgiel)
HAVING fought so hard for their place in the competition, Eoghan Rua will be determined to make the most of their lifeline against Bredagh this afternoon.
The Coleraine side were initially excluded from the draw by Ulster Council after they had failed to field for their scheduled Derry senior championship clash with Swatragh in the summer.
However, a series of appeals saw them win back their right to represent the Oak Leaf county and make the step up from junior, where they proved so successful last year.
Before Slaughtneil managed it at senior level this autumn, Eoghan Rua last year became the first Derry club to win an Ulster hurling club title at any senior grade.
They went on to the All-Ireland junior final where they lost by two points to Kilkenny’s Glenmore.
In recent years they have alternated between junior and intermediate along with fellow Derry representatives Na Magha, who this year played in the provincial junior series.
Eoghan Rua reached the Ulster intermediate final two years ago, though were well beaten by O’Donovan Rossa, but manager Joe Passmore – who now takes the hurlers with long-serving Coleraine football manager Sean McGoldrick – believes that there is little to choose between any of the teams at this grade.
“If you look at the form line, we played Rossa two years ago and they were far too good for us, but they’ve proven themselves to be a decent senior side.
“That tells you we weren’t quite at the standard that year. We drew with Creggan up in Owenbeg and they went on to an All-Ireland junior and then the All-Ireland intermediate final last year.
“We played Glenmore and they had dropped down in Kilkenny. They were much stronger than a junior team. That suggests they were a stronger outfit than the grading was.
“We maybe float between junior and intermediate. The beauty of these Ulster competitions is that they give you real good matches. There’s a real buzz about the competitions.
“We played Carrickmore a couple of years ago and came out on top of them, they got to the intermediate final last year. There’s a lot of teams there around a similar level, and we’re probably in around the bottom of that group.”
They will be without free-taker Ciaran Gaile this afternoon owing to a knee injury, but should have the rest of their big name players – the McGoldrick clan, Niall Holly and Declan Mullan – available.
For Bredagh, whose couple of dual players will have to lift themselves from the disappointment of last weekend’s Ulster intermediate football defeat after extra-time by Donaghmoyne, the motivation may well be revenge.
When the sides met at the quarter-final stage in 2014, the Down side looked to be out of sight when they led by 3-7 to 0-4 with just over 20 minutes to play.
But two goals from Thomas Magee and one each from Anton Rafferty and goal-machine Colm McGoldrick turned around an astonishing game as Eoghan Rua won by a point.
“They’re a good team,” says Passmore.
“They’ve won both teams at intermediate level in Down, that’s some going. There’s plenty of big clubs that only field one team. I’ve nothing but admiration for Bredagh, because to do that in Down is a good achievement.
“They seemed to be unlucky in the football last weekend. They’ll be fit and strong with a lot of dual players. They’ve done an awful lot of work at underage and they’ve done well at Féiles and that. We know they’ll be a good team.”
Bredagh’s side will contain a couple of familiar faces to the Eoghan Rua men as well. Former Ballinascreen player Cathal Brunton captains them, and they will be hoping that he is fit again after being forced to sit out their county final win.
Ex-Swatragh forward Malachy Scullin is also a key player in attack alongside Donal Hughes and Niall Donnelly, while Cillian Mac Suibhne is reliable on the long-range frees.
Stung by last weekend’s defeat and the loss two years ago, Bredagh should have enough fire in the belly to progress to a final meeting with Carrickmore or Cloughmills.