Joe Kernan: Path to sporting paradise opening up for Ulster trio
For three Ulster clubs, this weekend represents an opportunity to enter a sporting paradise.
Cookstown Fr Rocks, An Port Mor and Bredagh will be engaged in All-Ireland semi-finals that could prove their passports into national deciders at Croke Park and open up the possibility of untold glory.
For the players, officials and indeed the communities involved, this is what they have dreamed about.
To be projected into the spotlight for positive reasons is the aim of every club and these Ulster units now get the chance to do themselves, their counties and their province a great honour.
Cookstown Fr Rocks won the All-Ireland Intermediate football title two years ago and here they are back again as hungry as ever on the honours trail.
Team captain is Tyrone triple All-Ireland winner Owen Mulligan and he is anxious to mark his first stint as a captain at any level by bringing home an All-Ireland trophy having already taken delivery of the Tyrone and Ulster titles.
Mulligan is one of several experienced players in a side which has shown absolute commitment to a rigid training programme devised by hard-working manager John McKeever and the players will certainly not be found wanting on the twin scores of pace and stamina when they meet Mayo and Connacht champions Charlestown on Sunday.
An Port Mor showed in overcoming Tyrone champions Brackaville in the Ulster club Junior Football Championship final that they are a side of considerable substance.
Former Tyrone midfield ace Colin Holmes is a central plank in their team while skipper Shane Nugent is an inspirational leader.
An Port Mor were underdogs in most of their games in winning both the Armagh and Ulster junior titles so they will not be in the least fazed now that they will go in against Ballinasloe as rank outsiders on Sunday.
Bredagh too will be up against it when they confront Fullen Gaels (Warwickshire) in the All-Ireland Junior Hurling Club Championship semi-final at Parnell Park, Dublin on Sunday.
The Bredagh club has made magnificent strides in both football and hurling and this time it’s the turn of the hurling fraternity to carry the flag.
From little acorns mighty oaks grow and so it is with the Bredagh outfit.
From modest beginnings the club has mushroomed and today scores of players in both codes are getting the chance to show their paces in the club’s colours.
This weekend marks a significant step forward for the progressive south Belfast outfit and a win over Fullen Gaels would project the side into the All-Ireland final and bring the vision of a momentous triumph into sharper focus.