St Enda's eyes on a place in history, insists McAuley
When St Enda's embarked on their Antrim Intermediate Club Championship campaign several months ago, skipper James McAuley never dreamt that his side would still be parading their wares in the provincial shop window come December.
Today the Glengormley side will not only bid to bring down the curtain in spectacular style on what has been a memorable year but write themselves into the history books by becoming the first team from their county to take delivery of the Ulster intermediate trophy.
It has been a fascinating voyage to date, too.
The Antrim title was captured with considerable panache before fancied Monaghan champions Doohamlet and then highly-rated Tyrone title-holders Tattyreagh were brought to their knees in the Ulster series.
At the Athletic Grounds, Armagh today (5.00pm), McAuley will lead his team into battle against Cavan outfit Mullahoran who added their own particular dressing to the provincial championship by overcoming Derry champions Banagher in a marathon semi-final that was only decided via an historic free-kick shoot-out.
If St Enda's progress to date has been underpinned by a stylish attacking mantra, then Mullahoran's journey into the depths of 2018 has been highlighted by a never-say-die spirit and a marked desire to do the Breffni county proud.
McAuley, who marshals his defence from centre-half-back, is in no doubt as to just what his side face this evening.
"You have to admire the character that Mullahoran have shown to get to this stage," he reflects.
"They have come through some tough games and they will have benefitted from such tests."
With Philly Curran and Joe Maskey manning the midfield and Ruairi Scott, Eoin Nagle, Odhran Eastwood and the dynamic Peter Healy livewires in attack, McAuley believes his side have the ammunition to pierce holes in Mullahoran's morale.
Yet he is aware that the Cavan side are not short on scoring talent in particular. Enda O'Reilly and Philip Brady in particular form a double-pronged cutting edge in a lively attack, skipper Killian Brady and Gavin Brady are known for their ceaseless toil at midfield while Matthew Hynes and Tadgh McGahern form the central spine of a defence that tends to yield little.
McAuley has observed St Enda's mature under the watchful eye of manager Frank Fitzsimons and believes their new-found confidence and steely determination will stand them in good stead.
"I want to be taking delivery of the Ulster trophy at the end of the game not just for us as players but for all the people who have been part of St Enda's since the club was founded over 60 years ago," says McAuley with considerable feeling.