by Fiona O’Brien
The Intermediate final is graced with having the two teams who have shown the best form throughout the season, without having been knocked out in unfortunate fixtures.
That is mostly thanks to, ironically, the result of the last encounter between the sides, in which Cu Chullains came up trumps in the final round of the group matches.
That day, the South Londoners beat Thomas McCurtains by three points, but the Essex based team had already been awarded with an automatic semi-final berth and by losing it meant that they would not have to face them again until the Championship’s decider.
Senior manager Sean Reilly is not taking too much away from that day: “We’ve played them a number of times this year and last year, and although we beat them in the final stage of the round robin, we won’t be looking too much into that as we were playing for a lot more than them,” he said.
“We had to beat them in order to avoid them in the semi-final as they were already through, and we wanted to make sure we didn’t have to face them until the final. It was a completely different contest and we just wanted to make our trip to the final a little easier.”
But the club is ensuring that that they ultimately enjoy the great achievement that they’ve attained this season.
“We’re getting good numbers out now at this stage of the season, it’s great to be in this position. We’ll have a couple of training sessions in the build up to the final, but it’s more enjoyable as we’re delighted to be in the position we are in.”
A fortnight before the final, they made a comeback of sorts in the second half against Fulham Irish, who they trailed 02 to 0-6 at the halfway point, but went on to emerge as 4-7 to 0-8 victors.
“We had what on paper looks like a dramatic semi-final win, but it was all part of the game plan to deal with the breeze at Ruislip,” he says.
“We were playing into the wind in the first half, so decided to hold off on attacking and just try to stop Fulham Irish as much as we could, and although we went in four points down at half-time we were confident that we could get scores in the second half.”
And score they did – Padraig Biggane got the ball rolling with a goal soon after the break, before Mick Murphy claimed a heroic hat-trick.
“It gives us a great boost that we have a good few players that we know have an eye for goal who can pop up at crucial times. It’s happened a few times during the Championship, where we got 1-2 in the last five minutes against Fulham Irish the first time we faced them.
“It always helps to have a couple of players up front that the players have confidence in picking up the important scores.
“We’ve a couple of slight injuries, which always happens after a long season, there’s two lads with hamstring issues and another with a calf muscle strain, but they’re working with our physio twice a week so hopefully everything will be right come Saturday.”
In the Thomas McCurtains camp, chairman John Dwyer is in high spirits with the club’s football team also in the semi-final replay of the Junior Football championship “We’ll have a great weekend!”
He has been a loyal devotee of the club since 1972, and took over from former chairman, Roscommon’s Tom Watson, seven years ago.
The Tipperary man is hopeful of the hurlers chances, but is well aware of the threat posed by Cu Chullains.
“We’re feeling confident, we’ve had a very good season and we’ve got good crowds showing up to training. But that’s not to say that we will be complacent against Cu Chullains.
“We’ve got to show them respect. They’ve got the upper hand on us perhaps over the past few matches, but we know that we made the semi-final first, and have definitely got stronger in recent weeks. We’ve got a few niggling injuries here and there, but it should all be fine.
“It probably worked in everybody’s favour that they beat us last time around, otherwise we both would have faced a tough match in the quarter final and it’s nice the two top teams have made it to the final.
“We’re full of confidence after our semi-final performance, and although we were in control, we dealt well with the little scare we got from Robbie Healy’s brace of goals when we were dominating play.”