All-Ireland JHC Quarter-Final
Eoghan Rua (Doire) v John Mitchel’s GAC (Warwickshire)
Shane Hynes – Oranmore/Maree (Gaillimh)
“Our next game is always our toughest game.”
And here it comes.
Eoghan Rua manager Brendan McNicholl was keen to stress the importance of taking one game at a time after his side sealed their Ulster JHC title with victory over Newry Shamrocks last weekend in Dungannon.
While the Coleraine men cruised past Mullahoran and Inniskeen in their first two Ulster ties, they were made to scrap for an hour against a determined and talented Newry Shamrocks side who played the majority of the second half with 14 men.
A stunning 0-11 from centre-forward Sean Leo McGoldrick, who McNicholl describes as ‘an unbelievable player’ saw them win back the trophy they last lifted in 2015. Last weekend’s win represented Eoghan Rua regaining the title at the first time of asking having been prevented from competing due to the three-year rule.
Captain Ciaran Lagan acknowledged the influence that the McGoldrick clan have on the team and how that filters down to the younger players who are coming through.
“It’s not just the McGoldricks, Niall Holly’s their cousin and I’ve basically grown up there. My ma looked after them and I basically grew up in the house. The Mooneys were there all the time too and the likes of Lorcan McMullen.”
Thankfully for Coleraine the McGoldricks no longer have a monopoly on the score-sheet and have been ably supported by the Mooney brothers, Niall Holly and former Derry star Anton Rafferty in their run to Ulster glory and all hands will be needed on the wheel as they eye All-Ireland glory.
In their way stand John Mitchel’s of Birmingham who retained their All-Britain title with a 4-08 to 1-12 victory over Manchester’s Fullen Gaels at Páirc na hÉireann a fortnight ago. The Warwickshire side fell at the same stage in last year’s competition and manager Des Kelly will be hoping to get over the hurdle this season.
As is often the case with the British champions, the Irish side will go into battle in unfamiliar circumstances and Eoghan Rua will be comfortable in the surroundings of Celtic Park, where their footballers tasted glory as recently as last season as they took home the Derry SFC title.
Although the exploits of their forwards have been catching the eye, the Coleraine challenge has been based on an ultra-tight defensive unit and the full back line of Ciaran Lagan, Barry McGoldrick and Pearse Dallas have been extremely tight.
Kevin McCarry’s goal has been breached just once in four championship outings and not since September 29th when Na Magha’s Daryl Connolly swept home Déaglán Foley’s rebounded penalty in the Derry final. If Mitchel’s are to have any success, they need to lean heavily on the Eoghan Rua rearguard.
Although only mentioned tentatively, the idea of getting back to Croke Park is nestled in the minds of every Eoghan Rua hurler and was summed up well by Lagan after last week’s final whistle.
“A lot of people like to say take one game at a time but I don’t see why we can’t go on. We got beaten by a very, very good Kilkenny team last time when again, we started too slow and if we’d played we probably could have beaten them, but we’ll hopefully go one better this year and win it.”
The Bannsiders will be hoping to take another step towards that goal in the Maiden City on Sunday.