All-Ireland Inter Firms Junior Hurling ChampionshipThe Creagh Concrete team who will play Romaquip of Galway tomorrow in Offaly
Creagh Concrete vs Romaquip Ltd (Offaly)
Venue: Faithful Fields (Offaly GAA Training Centre), Tullamore
Throw In: 1.30pm
Referee: Eamonn Mansfield (Kilkenny)
By Brendan McTaggart
A new year and a new competition for Saffron fans of the wee ball. Antrim and Ulster have a representative in the All-Ireland hurling inter-firm series for the first time with Creagh Concrete making the journey to the Faithful County on Saturday morning in search of glory.
Managed by St Brigid’s clubman Geoffrey Laverty, the Toome based firm will face Romaquip Ltd for a place in the All-Ireland Final. The Birr based company come into Saturday’s semi-final having competed and successfully defended their Leinster championship and will start as favourites having lost in last years decider to Galway firm Supermacs.
Creagh have already competed in the football inter-firms competition in 2017 and it is from their participation in that competition that their interest was born. An application was put into the Ulster council to look into participation and because there are no other participants within the province, the lads from Creagh now find themselves within reach of an All-Ireland final. Team manager Geoffrey Laverty
From what started as a bit of a joke within the Creagh ranks and banter after their footballers lost out to eventual Ulster winners Heron Brothers, a few training sessions later and a couple of challenge matches have Laverty’s side soon realising that they’re in an All-Ireland semi-final. With plenty of the Creagh workforce coming from north Antrim, they should have the makings of a strong team and it was after Dunloy’s participation in the Ulster club championship that the office banter turned to out to be something more. Speaking with James McKeague, he told us that it was during their first match against Jordanstown that they took the competition more seriously: “We played Jordanstown in a friendly back in November and we were poor in the first half. It was nothing to write home about and there were more than a few choice words at half time. The boys were told that we are taking this seriously and this isn’t just a knock about for the craic. We managed to turn the game around and won it in the end but we’ve noticed a change in attitude since.” McKeague continued: “The intensity was there and that match showed in itself that we have the calibre of player who could do well in a competition like this.”
Laverty will have help along the side lines from Paddy Martin, Martin McNaughton and Joe Tippot while Dunloy man Michael McClements has been helping with trainings at differing times. They will be able to call upon talent from Cushendall, Loughgiel, Dunloy and Cloughmills but will be without the services of two of their main performers on Saturday: “James McNaughton and Eoin O’Neill are playing for Antrim in the McGurk Cup Final on Saturday night in the Dub and while its good for them and I hope they win, its obviously a blow for us to lose players of their quality but we still have a decent side.”
Creagh will be able to call upon the likes of the McKeague brothers and Paul Shiels, with the Laverty brothers from Cloughmills and Bernard Graham from Clooney Gaels all having tasted success on the club stage in recent times, they have built a side of players who know how to win. McKeague told us however that they are also looking at the bigger picture and Ulster hurling: “We’re hoping that this could be the start of inter-firm hurling within Ulster. When some other firms see us playing then they might join in next year. It would be good to have another form of hurling when the club season is over, the winter is long enough so to be playing in a competition like this would be good for all concerned.”
With different firms in the south amalgamating for participation, the lads from Creagh could just have got a few CEO’s within Ulster stirring with thoughts of the 2018 Ulster Inter-Firms a possibility. For now, McKeague’s attentions are firmly set on Romaquip in Tullamore: “We have no idea about them to be honest. We’re going down there and we’ve just been making sure we’ll be doing what we can to compete. Like anytime you play in the south it’s going to be a tough match and after five or ten minutes we’ll soon know what sort of contest we’re in for but there’s been a real buzz about the place for the last couple of weeks and we’re looking forward to it.”
Ruairi Laverty (left) and Paul Shiels who will line out for the Creagh Concrete team