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Creggan Kickhams left sweating over their dual aces ahead of Ulster Intermediate Hurling Championship quarter-final

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By John Campbell

Published 02/10/2015

To the fore: Marty Johnston (right) will be pulling the strings for Creggan Kickhams against Cargin in the Antrim Senior Football Championship semi-final tonight
To the fore: Marty Johnston (right) will be pulling the strings for Creggan Kickhams against Cargin in the Antrim Senior Football Championship semi-final tonight

The notion that the curtain has come down on the role of the dual player - someone who is proficient at both football and hurling - is about to be spectacularly scuppered this weekend.

Two of Ulster's top clubs face major championship assignments - but only after a huge raft of their players deploy their skills in a different code 48 hours earlier.

Creggan Kickhams are due to travel to meet Castleblayney in the Ulster Intermediate Hurling Championship quarter-finals on Sunday but Kickhams manager Paul Mellon must await the outcome of tonight's Antrim Senior Football Championship semi-final against Cargin at Ahoghill before he discovers the full extent of the playing resources that will be available to him.

Fermanagh hurling champions Lisbellaw are in a similar plight as they prepare to meet Armagh title-holders Middletown in the quarter-final of the Ulster Senior Club Championship knowing that upwards of 11 of their players could be turning out for Maguiresbridge against Lisnaskea in a vital championship relegation football quarter-final replay tonight.

The uncertainty engulfing Creggan Kickhams and Lisbellaw precipitated by the dual player issue is endemic of the frustration felt by several other clubs as well in the province as they push for championship success.

Creggan Kickhams chairman Tony McCollum believes that his club have to some extent become victims of their own progress on different fronts this year.

"We have won the Antrim Intermediate Hurling Championship, we have won the minor hurling crown, we are in the camogie final and we are in the Senior Football Championship semi-final," pointed out McCollum.

"While we are delighted to be making headway, this obviously makes big demands on our players and particularly on our dual players at senior level.

"We have about 11 players who are needed by both the football and the hurling team managements and obviously there is a difficulty in juggling their commitments, especially at this time of the year when the trophies are really up for grabs.

"We are keeping our fingers crossed that we might be fortunate to get a double bonus this weekend in terms of results but that won't be easily achieved."

The Johnston brothers, Martin and Ricky, are among the Creggan club's highest-profile players and are expected to be in the vanguard of their line-up against Cargin tonight.

But Oistin McAteer will be an absentee because of a cruciate ligament injury and that will be a big blow to the side.

"This is a match for which we would have liked to have everyone on board but it's great to be still playing championship football at this team of the year," added McCollum.

His anxieties are shared by Lisbellaw joint-boss Kevin Corrrigan, who, along with his managerial colleagues Brian Johnston and Adrian McPhillips, will be keeping his fingers crossed that the battery of his players who start for Maguiresbridge against Lisnaskea tonight will come through unscathed.

Corrigan stated: "We have about 12 dual players in all at this level and naturally the fact that these two fixtures are coming on top of each other puts us under pressure, there is no point in saying otherwise.

"Maguiresbridge are keen to avoid relegation and we understand that. At the same time, it is worth considering that Lisbellaw have been playing in the Ulster Senior Club Hurling Championship for the past three years but we have still to win a match.

"As you would expect, we are very keen to break our duck in the competition. Many of our players were in the Fermanagh side that won the Lory Meagher Cup earlier in the year and they would now like to pit their skills against some of the best hurlers in the province in the Ulster club series.

"We are keeping our fingers crossed that we will be able to put out our strongest side against Middletown. If we could get over this one, it would be a marvellous fillip for our club."

The Teague brothers, David and Daniel, John Duffy, Barrie Duffy, Andrew Breslin and John Paul McGarry are key figures in a Lisbellaw side who hope to keep Fermanagh's name in the headlines for a little longer in what is proving a truly memorable year for the county.

Belfast Telegraph

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