Bredagh turn to hockey to help with hurling mission
South Belfast hurling club Bredagh have been receiving help from unusual quarters as they build up to their All-Ireland junior club semi-final this weekend against Lancashire's Fullen Gaels.
As well as utilising training venues such as Queen's University and the facilities at Our Lady and St Patrick's College in Knock, the sand-based hockey pitch at Stormont has also resounded to the clash of the ash as they fine tune their gameplan in an effort to make it to a Croke Park final.
“I think the preparation went as well as it possibly could,” said team manager Liam Quinn.
“The team and the management team got together and worked out a plan.
“We took a wee break for the week between Christmas and the New Year, but then we knuckled back down to it.”
All these extras sessions cost money as the club entered new territory of training over a winter.
As well as renting venues, they also played challenge matches against Tyrone and Fermanagh which necessitated coaches to Cookstown and Lisbellaw.
Thankfully, a fundraising drive and contributions from two sponsors helped to make up the extra expense.
The game had originally been scheduled to take place at Parnell Park, but has now been moved to Parnell's club, Coolock with a throw-in at 1pm on Sunday.
Quinn and some other club representatives went for a trip down to scout out the venue last weekend.
“Just to see what it was like and what we were going to expe
rience when we went down there. It does no harm just to have a wander around the pitch and see what the facilities are like,” he explained.
While they can familiarise themselves with the surroundings, he admits that it is difficult in trying to dig for information on their opponents, conquerors of Calry Rovers/St Joseph's Sligo in the All-Ireland quarter-final played in Birmingham.
“They have a fair smattering of senior hurlers and boys of senior experience from around Waterford and Tipperary,” he said.
“There are also three young fellas who played senior hurling for St John's in Antrim.
“They have a lot of players there who would have played at a lot higher standard than us,” said Quinn.
“They are the only hurling team in Lancashire so they have a big pick of players right across Manchester and Liverpool.
“Every year that team is going to change with players going to college in Manchester and Liverpool, or starting work over there,” he added.
What is widely known is that this is the third time in succession Fullen Gaels have captured the All-Britain Championship.
They are also familiar with Ulster opposition, having accounted for Donegal's Burt last year.
Quinn however will be concentrating on his own end and getting Bredagh, who will look to the high-scoring Donal Hughes for inspiration, primed for battle.
“They have been well prepared, well looked after — there's not much more the management team can do other than pick the right team and leave it up to the players to do it on the day,” he said.