Paul Braniff has endured more than his share of pain and heartbreak over the past three years.
Two cruciate ligament operations and lengthy spells of rehabilitation have limited his involvement in inter-county hurling to such an extent that serious reservations were expressed about his future in the sport.
But not only has the Portaferry clubman fought his way back to full fitness - he has just been handed the captaincy of the Ulster side that will meet Munster in tomorrow’s inter-provincial semi-final at Fermoy (3.00).
Ulster joint manager Dominic McKinley is in no doubt that Braniff has fully earned the honour.
“Paul’s fortitude and commitment have been immense. He has set a superb example to other players and we have no doubt that he will prove a great leader,” asserts McKinley.
Braniff’’s acknowledged scoring prowess will be a prime weapon in an Ulster side that is essentially an amalgam of players from Antrim, Down and Derry.
“The players take great pride in representing their province and even though we will be facing a Munster side that should include a number of household names like Eoin Kelly, John Mullane and others, I still think we will give a good account of ourselves,” points out McKinley.
Karl McKeegan, Neil McGarry, Neil McManus and Karl Stewart will fly the flag for Antrim in the side while Gabriel Clarke and Andy Savage are among the Down players who will join Braniff in bolstering the line-up.
And the talented Hinphey brothers from Derry, Liam and Kevin, are also in the mix.
In the other semi-final, Leinster, liberally sprinkled with players from All Ireland champions Kilkenny, will take on Connacht, alias Galway, at Kiltoom. Now that they have been granted entry into the Leinster Championship, Galway will be keen to lay down a marker that they are worthy of their inclusion.