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Coleraine eager to end the long wait for shot at glory

By Declan Bogue

It's hurling in November, but Eoghan Ruadh Coleraine and their co-manager Joe Passmore aren't complaining, as they won their lengthy appeals process to be able to take the field against Down's Bredagh for today's Ulster Intermediate Club Hurling Championship semi-final (Loughgiel, throw-in 2.30pm).

"There was a miscommunication which meant that the Ulster GAA didn't enter us in the original draw," explains Passmore, a club stalwart originally from Omagh, who has been to the forefront of the camogie revolution in the club in recent seasons.

Eoghan Ruadh were originally listed for the competition, but their participation was shrouded in some controversy after they failed to field in a Derry Championship match against Swatragh.

They had been re-graded after winning last year's Ulster Junior Championship, beating MacCumhaill of Donegal in the final, while they reached the All-Ireland final, only to lose to Kilkenny's Glenmore.

Since that, then team manager Padraig O'Mianáin has stepped away from the role to concentrate on coaching, while Passmore and Sean McGoldrick - father of what feels like several recent Derry players - are now the management team.

The club committee decided to appeal the decision and after a series of meetings with central figures in Croke Park, the Ulster Council reflected on their decision and allowed them back in.

"It means the players get an opportunity to play," says Passmore.

"It's unfortunate that there has been a delay and it is not great for the boys from other clubs but that's not our fault."

As he explains, if the club did not have this game to look forward to, it could actually put them in jeopardy.

"The danger is that if you put a team like Eoghan Ruadh out of business in terms of the championship… we are struggling to keep the game going," he said.

"I know that sounds like a bit of a cliché, but it's tough work here.

"Us competing in an intermediate championship could be the difference between some of our underage activities going on next year or not, because the boys want to see senior players playing."

As one of the coaches on the ground in Ulster grassroots hurling, Passmore is able to identify the problems.

"The problem with Derry is that there are not enough teams to sustain a senior championship that every team can play in. That's the bottom line at the minute. That's a problem across Ulster," he states.

"There was a meeting in Garvaghey last week that was attended by a lot of hurling people under the aegis of Oliver Galligan (of the Ulster Council). One of the biggest issues coming out was people (are not) getting competitive matches at their own grades, be it senior or underage or whatever. It's an issue for the province as a whole in hurling."

As for today, Bredagh are familiar opponents. The two clubs actually met each other at this level two years ago and while Bredagh had a lead in double figures heading into the last quarter, a couple of goals gave Eoghan Ruadh big momentum and they went on to sneak home in that encounter, played in Newcastle.

In the meantime, Passmore has been helping out with a club in Antrim, where Bredagh play their domestic competition and has been able to observe them up close.

As for challenge matches, the Derry men have been able to get a few here and there.

But he explains: "The problem with trying to arrange games is we weren't sure from one week to another.

"It's very hard to arrange a game against a team for next week if there is an appeal in the meantime.

"We got a couple of games in but the preparations wouldn't be ideal.

"We know how to prepare from last year and we know how to prepare from football, and I know from camogie."

Coleraine can call on a number of their talented dual players, including Barry and Sean Leo McGoldrick, Declan Mullan and Niall Holly.

Last week, the Eoghan Ruadh double act of Passmore and McGoldrick went along to today's venue to watch Eire Óg of Carrickmore beaten by St Brigid's of Cloughmills in the quarter-final.

However, any hopes of them keeping a low profile were dashed by McGoldrick winning the half-time draw!

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