Craigbane targeting second ever Ulster Final

Minister Michelle O'Neill at the  official opening of St. Joseph's GAC new sports and recreation facility at Craigbane, with, Primary 5 pupils from St. Mary's Altinure PS, James McLaughlin and Aisling Mortimer. Also included, from left, are Sean Crossan, chairman, St. Joseph's GAC, Danny Murphy, provincial director, Ulster GAA, and John Keenan, GAA county chairman.
Minister Michelle O'Neill at the official opening of St. Joseph's GAC new sports and recreation facility at Craigbane, with, Primary 5 pupils from St. Mary's Altinure PS, James McLaughlin and Aisling Mortimer. Also included, from left, are Sean Crossan, chairman, St. Joseph's GAC, Danny Murphy, provincial director, Ulster GAA, and John Keenan, GAA county chairman.

CRAIGBANE manager Kevin Moore is backing his side’s ’amazing belief’ to carry them through to the Ulster Intermediate Club Championship final when they take on favourites Carrickmacross Emmett’s of Monaghan at Healy Park, Omagh on Sunday (throw-in 2.30pm).

MIchael Wilson reports

A season that will live long in the memory of everyone connected with the North Derry club has seen the ‘Lily Whites’ secure promotion back to senior football while also lifting a seventh Derry Intermediate Championship.

That elevation to Division One was secured last week against Steelstown in Celtic Park, only 24 hours after the club unveiled its impressive new Sports Pavilion which cost upwards of £500,000. All in all, 2011 has been quite a year but, as the Craigbane manager explained, qualifying for their second Ulster Intermediate Club final would be the icing on the cake.

“Since we got to the county final we’ve heard that Carrickmacross are hot favourites,” explained Moore, “We’ve watched the video and we’re going to be up against it. We know what we have in front of us and it’s going to be a struggle.

“But we’re not going to go out just to make up the numbers, we’re going out with the intention of getting to an Ulster final. It’s amazing the belief that these boys have over this last six to eight weeks.

“Nine points down at Celtic Park against Drumsurn in the Derry Championship and any other team would’ve been dead and buried. We just went at them and we got out of it and ever since we’ve just kicked on. This is maybe week seven or eight in a row that these boys have been out.

“We’re pretty confident. We’re going to go up there and give it one big lash. It’s not too often Ulster semi-finals come around for Craigbane so whenever it comes we’ll grab it with both hands and luckily enough the players’ discipline was great against Steelstown and nobody was sent off and thankfully we have no injuries. All being well come next week we’ll be in an Ulster Final.”

Standing in the way of that dream are the Monaghan champions who until a few years ago were one of the most prominent teams at senior level within the Farney county and who can call on the services of Monaghan county player Stephen Gollogly.

They defeated 14-man Kildress of Tyrone in the quarter-finals, the same stage at which Craigbane were easily disposing of Down champions Kilclief. As well as Gollogly, who operates at centre-half forward, the Derry champions will need to keep a close eye on is corner-forward Andrew Callan who scored 0-05 against Kildress with three coming from play.

However few Intermediate clubs anywhere can boast a midfield as strong as Craigbane’s Blain Gormley and Adie McLaughlin and this area can be the launching pad for success.

The Carrickmacross full-back Mark McNally will also be fully tested by the in-form Lee Moore, the Lily Whites leading scorer and main attacking threat. With the experienced duo of Gavin Conwell and Cathal O’Kane creating space for the other two dangerous attackers, Ryan Moore - if recovered from the injury that kept him out of the league final - and Jude McLaughlin will test every chink in the Emmett’s defence.

Fergal Crossan has been in top form since being moved to the full-back spot and he is flanked by two very competent corner men in Damien McLaughlin and Marty McGinty. In the event of a defensive problem then the team’s longest serving player, a very fit 43 year old Kieran McElhinney, will be sent for.

Confidence but not complacency seem to be the order of the day for the Craigbane manager who says his team will not be overawed by Sunday’s opponents.

“They are a team with plenty of senior football experience. They were in a senior football championship final three years ago and ended up going down in a bit of controversy, so they are a team with plenty of senior pedigree. We’ll need to be at our best but we are now a senior club ourselves, and have a few players on the fringes of the Derry senior panel. Fellas like Lee Moore, Aidy McLaughlin and Blain Gormley are there or there abouts, and then there are the experienced heads like Kieran McElhinney and Fergal Crossan.

“Sunday will be tough but these lads have been great all season and their attitude is first class, “ he added.