Before a ball was kicked in this Championship, news broke that Benny Coulter had broken his ankle while playing for his club, Mayobridge.
The following night James McCartan attended the Championship launch at the Titanic Quarter and said; “You are hopeful that Benny Coulter and Dan Gordon, Liam Doyle and Anton McArdle hopefully we are still in the Ulster Championship when they get back to fitness.
“It will be great to be in the semi-final or final of the Ulster Championship and Benny Coulter and those guys on the bench champing at the bit to get on. But that’s easier said than done.”
Last Thursday, McCartan asked Coulter if he fancied playing 15 minutes of a league game the following night against Longstone. He did.
Mayobridge manager Francie Poland was alright with the arrangement too and Coulter proved he was able to take the field for a spell.
“I don’t think James was there to watch,” said Coulter on Sunday. “I think he might have been too comfortable in the house doing something, but I think he got word back that I played anyway.
“I didn’t do much but I got through it anyway and thankfully he used me. I’m just glad that he had the belief and trust in me.”
The last few weeks, Coulter has dedicated himself to his recovery. A daily trip to Warrenpoint to bathe his ankle in the sea water became routine.
“I was doing everything I could to play, oxygen tanks and the whole lot. People were telling me that I was mad in the head to play, but you mightn’t get too many of these chances again. I’m glad I played.”
He admits now that he thought there was a point when the dream of an Ulster final was gone.
“I was actually doing a warm-up for most of the second half, but in the first half I was just sitting there with [Liam] Doyler saying, ‘this game’s over, we’re beat, we’re out. Thankfully Aidan got a goal before half-time to bring us back in to only six points in it.
“Then Tommy Freeman hit us with a sucker punch and I thought we were beat again. I’m not sure exactly what happened, who got the scores or how we clawed our way back, but we done it.”
There was no mad rush to get ice on his ankle after the game, which was a good sign, but Coulter says it is heavily strapped up and will remain so as he prepares for the final.
“It’s like a cast underneath the sock. I can feel it now. I will probably take next week off, do a lot of work with the physio and then build myself up and get back to full training.
“People talk about losing fitness and sharpness, that’s over-rated in the GAA, people saying about a lack of fitness, you don’t. You just need to stick the ball over the bar. And belief.”