Down Intermediate Hurling Championship final
Carryduff v Liatroim (Pairc Esler, Saturday, 5pm)
CARRYDUFF hurling manager Damien McCallin is relishing the chance to banish the demons of last year  as his side prepare to lock horns with Liatriom in the Down Intermediate Hurling final on Saturday in Newry.

Carryduff were beaten finalists last year, losing out to Newry Shamrocks, having won the Intermediate Championship the year before, beating Sunday’s opponents Liatriom in the 2020 deferred Championship final.

McCallin is therefore hoping his side can go one step further again this campaign and avenge last year’s heartache.

“We are absolutely over the moon to be in the final, this is what we play for,” he said.

“Ourselves and Liatroim were probably most people’s favourites to reach the final.

“I was confident in the boys that they could make it and I’m glad they have.

“It’s good to get another chance to redeem ourselves after last year’s disappointment against Newry.”

After an up and down league campaign, Carryduff won all three of their round robin Championship games, including a 2-19 to 3-12 victory over their opponents at the weekend.

Liatroim did win the league meeting earlier in the season and have been ruthless in front of goal in their other two fixtures, defeating Clonduff 5-23 to 1-14 and thrashing Ballela 7-22 to 0-9.

McCallin is therefore well aware that Carryduff will have to be at their best if they want to overcome Liatroim like they did two years ago, name checking a number of individuals that they will have to be wary of.

“To be honest it’s been an up and down year,” he admitted.

“Liatroim gave us a hurling lesson in the first league game of the season, and it was a wake-up call for us.

“The boys then put a lot of effort in in training and when we played them in the round robin, we played really well that day. In saying that, Liatroim weren’t at their best that day.

“I’m confident in one regard, but I know it is going to be a shootout, they have great hurlers and a brilliant manager so I they will be hungry and as confident as us coming into the game.

“They’ve got Conor McCrickard, one of the best hurlers and athletes in the county.

“You’ve also got Pearse Og in midfield and Ruairi McCrickard and they’ve obviously added quality in Tiernan Murphy who is deadly as we’ve seen, when given time and space.

“He is a bit like his dad playing for Rossa back in the day in the quarter forward position.

“We know we are going to be up against it facing them, so we’ve a lot to prepare for. we know well have to be on top of our game and get a bit of luck too.”

The manager admits that injuries have been cruel to his side this season, but praised the application of those who have stepped up in the absence of some key players. 

“We’ve been unlucky with injuries recently too, but we’ve a big squad so were lucky in that regard,” he pondered.

“We’ve got replacements that can come but some of the injuries we’ve had this year have been heartbreaking.

“We lost Daniel McCartan to an ACL injury one of our star players last year, whilst Mark McConville rolled his ankle last week so it’s touch and go whether he will be fit.

“Then we’ve got Ronan Beattie, such a talented player and hurling wise, a maverick, but has been plagued with knee injuries so he hasn’t played a minute for us this season. He came back to training last month and he’s a sublime talent, but we can’t get to the bottom of his injury. He would be one who, if fit would be starting, but we must monitor that.

“It’s not the end of the world if he doesn’t make it as we’ve had guys who have done really well in his absence.

“We’ve got good hurlers right through and on their day they’re a match for anyone.”

McCallin is hoping to emulate Newry’s success in winning the final and eventually making the step up and seamless transition to life in the Senior ranks, whilst also admitting that from a sentimental point of view, a victory would be the icing on the cake for the club this year.

“When we rewind to the summer of last year when we won the deferred 2020 Championship and we beat Liatroim in it we had that feeling of happiness and fast forward a few months later and it was the opposite,” he reflected.

“The feeling we had after last year’s final was heartbreaking, but that is the rub of the green. We’ve sampled both sides of the coin and now we know where we want it to fall on Sunday.

“As far as this club goes, it is our 50th anniversary this year, a poignant year and it would be a step in the right direction to win it.

“This squad and I have aspirations of becoming a senior squad in Down.

“We’ve seen Bredagh and Newry step up and we certainly believe that is the trajectory for our club, but we have to earn that right come Saturday on our own merit.”