Having watched his side record a four point victory in the preliminary round of the championship, Paul Mullan told the Saffron Gael that he completely agreed with Naomh Éanna’s pre-match ‘underdog tag’. With Joe Maskey serving a ban from his dismissal in last year’s final and Conor McSteen away on his honeymoon, the Hightown Road side were minus two from their regular starting 15. The Naomh Éanna manager told us: “It was completely fair. Knowing what we knew within the group we definitely were underdogs. We had boys away on holidays, one married during the week and Joe was suspended. Compared to the team we would have fielded last year to the team this year, the underdogs tag was completely justified.”
Mullan admitted that he and his management team had their reservations in the build up to the opening championship match with previous meeting with Armoy weighing heavily on their minds: “We were worried at management level. It was a much more difficult start to the Championship than we had last year and that’s not being disrespectful to St Paul’s. We knew we would get past them, not easily but in our heart of hearts we knew we had enough to get past them. We knew this was going to be different. Armoy have handed it to us the last couple of times we have met and walked clean over the top of us, we had no answer. We were expecting a tough, physical battle out there today and we weren’t wrong.”
It was the dream start to the tie for Naomh Éanna when Philip Curran bagging the opening goal of the game after just 50 seconds. Mullan said the early goal helped to influence the remainder of the game while highlighting his side’s character when Armoy took the lead with a quarter of the match remaining: “It was great to get that. It was the start we needed and it settled everyone. It allowed us to get hurling from the word go and bot be chasing the game. It gave us an edge.
“We’ve been talking about that (change of momentum) and talking about getting a response in terms of understanding the ebbs and flows of a game. There is times when you just can’t allow dominance to persist and you have to respond and work like a dog to make sure that doesn’t take hold.”
Naomh Éanna now face Lámh Dhearg on Sunday with Rossa Park being touted as a potential venue. The Hightown Road side will start that tie as favourites and although Mullan seemed undeterred, he will be expecting an improved performance from his side and believes they will require improvement if they want to progress to the semi-final: “We’ll take every game as it comes. We won’t be taking Lámh Dhearg lightly at all. They won a junior championship last year and they know how to win. They beat Cushendun who were a league above them and everyone was saying that Cushendun should have rolled them but they couldn’t get near them in the end but we know rightly that it doesn’t matter who they are, championship is championship. We got a great performance out of the lads today but would you put your house on it the next day? We need to up our levels again. We aren’t coming in the blind side this time. This result will turn a few heads within the county and plenty of teams, Lámh Dhearg being one of them will want to stop our train.”