Crealey keen to top the class in Ulster club series
Within a matter of months Ben Crealey has taken the quantum leap from schools' football to the cusp of an appearance in the Ulster club senior football championship final.
It's a gigantic step by any standards but the tall, lean Maghery player has made the transition with comparative ease.
Earlier this year the talented 19-year-old was in the engine-room of a St Patrick's Academy, Dungannon side that was denied a place in the Ulster Colleges MacRory Cup final only by a superb last-minute save from St Patrick's College, Maghera goalkeeper Sean Ó'Caiside that secured his team's place in the decider against St Paul's, Bessbrook which they won.
If disappointment was Crealey's lot on that occasion, then compensation was on the horizon.
He played a key role in helping Maghery to win their first Armagh senior championship title before imposing himself forcibly in last Sunday's Ulster club championship quarter-final win over Ramor United.
Now, as Crealey focuses on his team's semi-final against Down kingpins Kilcoo, he is preparing to further cement his midfield alliance with seasoned skipper James Lavery.
"It was terrific to share in the Armagh championship title win and there were certainly emotional scenes after that game," reflects Crealey. "Then we were out against Ramor United last Sunday, but although we won we were not at our best. Now the plan is to show our potential against Kilcoo."
Crealey's aerial ability, intelligent use of possession and willingness to track back and help his defence have significantly propped up Maghery's strategy to date but manager Shane McConville is urging his players to dig much deeper when they confront a Kilcoo side thirsting for the provincial crown..
"To be honest, I haven't seen this Maghery side click yet in any competition this season," insists McConville. "We have been winning matches while not playing up to scratch although I don't like to be saying things like that.
"I believe, though, that there is a big game in this side and I would like to see this produced against Kilcoo. We will certainly need this if we are to get over them because they have been knocking on the door of of late."