After learning who their opponents will be in the All-Ireland junior hurling Championship semi-final on January 20 next, south Belfast club Bredagh have returned to training but they face a number of off-field challenges before they meet Connacht junior champions, Sligo's Calry/St Joseph's
After securing their Antrim division three status the weekend before last when they overcame St Brigid's, Cloughmills with the help of one of their main players, Down star Donal Hughes, the Bredagh management team sat down to plot their way forward up to the big date in January. Unsurprisingly, finance was top of the agenda according to selector Liam Quinn.
“We don't have a clubhouse and we don't have a bar or anything to raise money,” he said.
“Having to train through the winter, when we wouldn't normally train under the lights is an expense.
“The first thing we had to do last night was sit down and work out how much it was going to cost for all the additional training sessions. The plan is that we are going to start training two nights a week on a 3G surface and then train on Sundays in Cherryvale Park, where we play our home matches.”
He added, “We will carry that through to the December 23 and then we will take a break for Christmas week before getting get back into it in early January.”
Representatives of the 1,000-member club will also get busy by appealing to their sponsors, as well as running their ‘Last Man Standing' competition. The annual football Sevens competition was held over the weekend and that is an established club fund-raiser, but they will also explore other avenues.
Quinn explained: “To book a 3G pitch for an hour during the week is usually £60 or £70 a go, Cherryvale on a Sunday is £35. When you add that for the two months between now and the end of January, and hopefully into February if we get into the final with any luck, you are talking about over £2,000, just to fund the training.”
However, while the financial situation is a headache, it is one that Quinn and manager Eamonn Mulvenna are quite happy to deal with. While they chase glory on the All-Ireland front, that recent win over Cloughmills was just as crucial to the development of their team, Quinn claims.
“It was every bit as important as the Ulster final as far as we were concerned because we didn't want to drop down to division four in Antrim, where the standard of hurling could be pretty poor. There are maybe four good teams, there are also other teams that aren't quite at the same standard as others.”
With Division Three status secured, their main concern is finding a location for training.
“We are still looking for a venue to be honest. We are chasing places like the Dub, but it is a bad time to go looking for pitches at the Dub because all the university teams are in full flow,” explains Quinn.
And manager Mulvenna, while understandably anxious to ensure that his team enjoys the best possible preparation for what is their biggest match to date, believes that the spirit which has brought them onto the All-Ireland stage will help their fund-raising drive.
Now he is keen to see everyone in the club get behind the hurlers in their bid for All-Ireland glory. But with a posse of talented players in his side such as Eohan Donnelly (left) and the precociously gifted Lorcan McMullan, whose scoring exploits has helped to underpin the team’s progress, Mulvenna is now hoping it will be a case of all hands to the pumps in the build-up to the clash with the Sligo and Connacht champions.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for our players to showcase their talents at national level,” Mulvenna says.
“Bredagh is a dual club and we have had a taste of success in football but now it’s the turn of our hurlers to fly the flag and the hope is that they will get the opportunity to do this in some style.”