Antrim Intermediate Hurling Championship final. Lámh Dhearg v Cloughmills, Casement Park, Sunday 2pm

Lámh Dhearg look to maintain Belfast monopoly

By David Mohan

2011 has been a productive year so far for Lámh Dhearg. Last weekend, the club’s senior footballers qualified for the county football final but on Sunday the Hannahstown hurlers will hope to annex the Antrim Intermediate hurling crown when they face Cloughmills at Casement Park (2pm).

The Red Hands have been at this stage before two years ago when they lost out to St Gall’s.

This time they will be aiming to go one better and become the fourth Belfast club in a row to win the Intermediate crown after Gort na Móna (‘08), St Gall’s (‘09) and St John’s (’10) all claimed the title.

Team manager Michael McGuigan revealed this has been their ambition from the start of the year and there is a real buzz around the club due to their ongoing success.

“Everything seems to be going well at the club now. There is a great atmosphere about and everyone is enjoying training,” he said.

“Our goal at the start of the season was to get to the Intermediate hurling final and hopefully win it. We also wanted to stay in Division 2 and get to the Ulster hurling final.

“They were our three main targets this year so we are on course. We aren’t there just yet but we are getting there.”

Standing in the way of this goal is a Cloughmills side that plies their trade in Division 3 of the league.  The North Antrim club has been in fine form in this season’s Championship – winning three games en route to Sunday’s decider.

Rasharkin (4-13 to 3-5) were accounted for in the preliminary round before Shane O’Neill’s were swept aside by 0-14 to 0-5 in the last eight. The possibility of an all West Belfast final was ended at the semi-final stage when Cloughmills overcame St Teresa’s by 4-11 to 0-8.

They will go into the game as underdogs as Lámh Dhearg operate in Division 2 and have also been in fine form during this season’s campaign.

After a first round bye, the Belfast men squeezed past Tír na nÓg at the quarter-final stage before easing to a semi-final win over Clooney Gaels (2-13 to 2-8). Lámh Dhearg will be hoping the experience throughout the squad can help them over the line on Sunday.

Their team boss admitted they have not produced a real high quality performance yet this year and will face a tough challenge on Sunday, but is hopeful the hard work on the training field can pay-off.

“They will be tough enough for us. We know they are in a different division from us, but come Championship things are completely different and anything can happen on the day,” added McGuigan.

“We have plenty of experience and training has that bit more intensity to it now than in previous years.

“The players are really pushing themselves and nearly making themselves sick they are going so hard but everyone is enjoying it.

“We haven’t played well all season or had that one outstanding performance. We are due one and we are still winning so hopefully we can produce that on Sunday – fingers crossed.”

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