Last year's hurt is driving on Keady, says Renaghan
The heartbreak endured in last year's Ulster Club Intermediate Hurling Championship final loss to St Gall's is still all too vivid for Keady Lamh Dhearg stalwart Stephen Renaghan.
Missed chances, some rather easily conceded scores and the absence of a rub of the green conspired to leave the Armagh champions deflated at the end of what had been a tingling contest.
But as he focuses on tomorrow's provincial Championship semi-final against Tyrone champions Eoghan Ruadh, Dungannon at Pairc Esler, Newry (2.30pm), Renaghan believes that the residual hurt from last year can act as a spur in his side's drive to reach the decider for the second successive time.
"Defeat was hard to take last year but now we are going into the semi-final again. A couple of players have retired and there have been one or two other changes, but essentially we have much the same squad and there is a strong desire that we should come good this time," insisted Renaghan.
Seven years spent in Armagh's colours have helped to make him one of the most consistent players in the province, but Renaghan thirsts for team success rather than personal glory.
The fact that Keady conceded 3-13 in overcoming Donegal side Setanta at the quarter-final stage - they landed 1-25 themselves - has certainly helped to focus minds from a defensive viewpoint, according to Renaghan.
"It was a big score to concede and we cannot afford to be as generous again. We know Eoghan Ruadh fairly well, they have good finishers in their side with a number of their players having county experience, so we know what we are facing into," he pointed out.
Conor Corvan, Barry Breen, Joby Burke, James King and John Corvan join Renaghan in providing an experienced underbelly to the Keady team, but the line-up is certainly not awash with old hands.
"No, we have guys in there of 18 years of age who are keen to project themselves, and where better to do that than on the Ulster stage? Obviously we are anxious to win not just as a boost for our club but in order to send out a signal that hurling in Armagh is in reasonable health," Renaghan was keen to point out.
St Enda's, Glengormley, who are under the baton of Antrim legend Sambo McNaughton, will meet Down champions Bredagh in the other semi-final at Lamh Dhearg (2.30pm).
St Enda's overcame Banagher at the quarter-final stage (1-10 to 0-12), while Bredagh got the better of Castleblayney by 2-11 to 0-13.
St Enda's win over Banagher was particularly merited, a last-gasp point from Ruairi Donaghy proving crucial as the Glengormley side maintained their drive for the provincial title.
But they will now face a tough task against a Bredagh side which has emerged as a strong force. The team is buttressed by experience and relies on a fusion of pace and power to get the better of opponents, so St Enda's know what they are facing into.
Manager McNaughton believes his team have the drive and the skill to advance but recognises that Bredagh's progress to date signals their intention of staking their claim to the title.
"This St Enda's team possess a good attitude, and I think they showed their character and commitment in the way they got the better of Banagher, who had a lot of good hurlers in their side," insisted McNaughton, who was in the Antrim side that lost to Tipperary in the 1989 All-Ireland final.