In the middle of the field on the 2019 Club All-Star team Grange’s Diarmuid Rafferty is partnered by one of the best young players in the county, Rian O’Neill. O’Neill displayed his quality throughout the 2019 season at both club and county level and becomes the first man to win three Club All-Star awards in a row.
Rafferty was also exceptional this year, playing his part in guiding Grange to their first Intermediate Championship success in 26 years. While their season may have ended in disappointed, with a 10 point loss at the hands of Galbally in the first round of the Ulster Intermediate Championship, injuries had their part to play that day.
“It probably was bonus territory but with the Armagh Championship being so tight, there were a lot of boys carrying injuries and there was a lot of football in a short space of time. I think we had four or five boys out injured for the Galbally game and it probably just came a week or two too soon for us. I think if we had of had the four or five boys back playing with us it could have been a whole lot closer”.
The one point win over Shane O’Neill’s in the Intermediate Final will live long in the memory for Grange and Cathal McKenna received all the plaudits for nailing the game winning free kick in the final minutes. But Rafferty was the man who got his side in the position to win the game, kicking the free to bring the sides level just moments before McKenna struck the winner.
“I just tried to keep as calm as possible, I’ve took them kicks 1000 times before, I was just trying to get a good connection and hopefully the rest would take care of itself. Me and Cathal were out the Wednesday night before and at training on the Friday again we were out practising so it just worked out well that the two of them were in good enough positions for the two of us”.
Grange will now face a huge challenge in 2020 as they join the senior ranks, playing in Division 1B. The St Colmcille’s club experienced an indifferent league campaign this season, failing to gain promotion from Division 2B before improving come championship season. But Rafferty insists his men are looking forward to senior football,
“Yeah definitely, we feel like we’ve handled ourselves well in the later part of the year. Probably the league this year didn’t go to well but we’re hoping maybe we’ll regroup and give 1B a rattle. It’ll be a tough challenge but we’re fully confident we can hold our own and we’re in good stead for it”.
While winning his first All-Star means a lot to the Grange midfielder, the personal highlight of the year was certainly their championship win, “It’s definitely going to be the final; it’s been a long time coming for the club. As everyone says the individual awards alright but the dream at the start of the year was the championship and we’re over the moon now. The community was brought even closer together”.