The Athletic Grounds will host this year’s Junior Championship Semi Finals and come nine o’clock on Sunday we will know who shall contest the 2019 final. Last weekend Forkhill blew the championship wide open by knocking out league champions and heavy favourites to do the double Clonmore.
Derrynoose’s Aaron Fox doesn’t believe the championship was a done deal and sees every remaining team having a brilliant chance to lift the trophy, “Heading into the Championship everyone’s there to win it and the four teams that’s left are there on merit so I’d say the other three teams all think the same”.
These two sides have already met once during season, in their round two league clash back in April when Forkhill hosted Derrynoose. The game was quite tight right up to the final moments when Forkhill stole victory from Derrynoose’s hands to collect the two points on offer, winning 2-12 to 2-10.
That tie will have little relevance this weekend according to Fox, “The game in the league was a great game, I think there were two goals in the last couple of minutes and they won it by two points but Championship is a different ball game and a lot of it happens on the day, the break of a ball or anything. We’ll just be looking to get a bit of luck on our side”.
While Forkhill obviously have two key players in county stars Jemar Hall and Stephen Sheridan, Derrynoose have a talented forward in their ranks, Conor McNally who kicked 0-9 of his side’s 0-15 total in their quarter final victory Belleek but Fox suggests it’s all about the team rather than looking to any individuals.
“That’s one of the things we’ve stressed the most, it’s the work rate. The scores will come if we work hard enough and if we put enough pressure on, the opposition mistakes will happen it’s just a matter of trying to capitalise on the mistakes but going into this weekend our work rate is going to have to be right up there to match theirs, they obviously worked their socks off to put the favourites out of the championship so we’re going to have to at least match that”.
This Derrynoose side are no strangers to Championship semi finals; they reached this stage of the competition last season but were defeated by eventual champions Keady. Fox insists his team are still feeling the hurt of 12 months ago, “At the start of the year it’s one of the things we mentioned. We just felt we left it behind a bit but Keady were a great side who went on and won it but we felt we left that game behind. There are a few things we would have changed looking back but, especially at the start of the year, it really drove us on”.
As Derrynoose are a duel club, most of their team feature in both codes. Having played 23 football games between league and championship on top of 12 hurling games this season there are obviously both positive and negative effects of so many games which Fox reflects on, “It definitely is good for the fitness; it saves you doing so much heavy training”.
“We’re the one club and 80% of us play both so pre-season is all joined up with the fitness and the gym work and then with so many games on it’s just the odd skill session we get for each code so it would be individual days just working on the skills for hurling and football cause there’s been enough fitness being done throughout the week”.
“Injury wise, throughout the league we were crippled with injuries and a lot of boys, even now are still carrying niggles and stuff throughout the year. It’s a long year and we’ve played a lot of games but you can’t beat playing, that’s why you play because you want to be playing the whole time so no complaints there”.