Sports

McWilliams looking to complete Ulster treble

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

McWilliams looking to complete Ulster treble thumbnailCathal McWilliams will be a key figure at the back for Rock.

ROCK defender Cathal McWilliams, who played on the Ulster JFC title-winning teams of 2007 and 2014, knows the value of experience, but is also aware of its potential irrelevance should the proper balance not be struck.

Most of the team have already won provincial medals, but McWilliams, along with a handful of others, has two, and the club is bidding to become the first in Tyrone to win three Ulster titles.

Opponents Blackhill stand in their way at Pair Esler, and one final push is required if another glorious chapter in a proud history is to be written.

“It's all-right having that experience, but it's actually trying to use it to your advantage.

“Whilst we have a few players with that experience, we also have a few fresh players coming in with an appetite, who wouldn't have been part of this sort of thing before, even the management, who would have been part of it either.

“So bringing in that fresh approach has made it a bit more enjoyable."

Rock's philosophy is uncomplicated and based upon discipline and hard work, with the ultimate aim of delivering quality ball to front men Aidan McGarrity and Conor McCreesh, both clinical finishers who hold the keys to success.

“They are two exceptional men, and once they have been needed, they have stepped up to the plate.

“But there are other men around them that maybe aren't getting the praise that they deserve, the likes of Eamon Ward.

“The defence has always been the Rock's strongest sector, but when you look up into the forwards, there's always forwards showing.

“They mightn't always get their scores, but they're always on the ball, looking the ball and setting up moves."

As the championship has progressed, the team ethic has grown stronger and players have become more comfortable with their specific roles.

And opportunities have arisen for fringe players to make a contribution, including youngsters who have risen to the occasion.

“You're seeing subs coming on, and it's not always the same names, and it's nice when you're seeing different faces coming on, and you always have that bit of confidence in them too.

“As the championship has gone on, each player has been growing into the championship, and you can see it developing in the training and in the in-house games and obviously in the championship matches.

“As regards to players coming on and developing, it has been massive."

Ciaran Gourley's return following a career-threatening injury is one of the primary reasons for the success of the St Patrick's club this season.

Surgery and recovery delayed the former Tyrone star's return to the squad, but he's now back in the starting fifteen and playing a leading role.

“Massive. Even in the Tyrone championship, it was massive to see him coming on, even if it was only for the last five or 10 minutes, he was just steadying the ship, and he has gradually been getting more game time," said McWilliams.

“Coming into training, he has that calming approach, and when things aren't going great, there's no rollicking, it's just about calming the whole thing down.

“He provides that kind of leadership that we still need. He is that sort of guy that you're always looking to. He's always looking for the ball, and he keeps the whole thing simple, that calm influence."

As Rock stand on the cusp of a third Ulster JFC title, no-one within the club would deny that the team has exceeded expectations this season.

The aim at the beginning of the season was to regain their place in Intermediate football, but in their centenary year, another provincial adventure has come as a welcome bonus.

“Our aim at the start of the year was just getting out of Division Three at all costs, whether that meant a league or a championship. We didn't really set our sights on what it was going to be, it was just about getting back into intermediate football, where we felt we belong.

“That was the management's approach from the start of the year, to get out of Division Three.

“But in our centenary year, to have the championship cup is massive, and it would be nice, obviously, to add Ulster, if we can do it, and get the second cup at the table for the gala."

Meanwhile, Rock chairman John Ward is hoping the club's centenary gala dinner on the weekend after next will reflect the celebrations that followed the Ulster JFC triumph of 2007.

“We decided in January that for the centenary year we would have a gala. It's a bit ironic, because the last gala we had was on 2007, to commemorate the 1982 Junior Championship winning team, 25 years on," he said.

“This year, we weren't really expecting anything, because we had an indifferent league, but to win the Tyrone championship and to now be sitting in the Ulster final is great."

The chairman's two sons, Eamon and Padraig, will play in the Rock attack on Sunday, and the chairman is hoping for a special family occasion.

He has watched the team develop from a shaky start in the league to now stand just 60 minutes away from a third Ulster title.

“We have got stronger as the year went on. Since we played Tattyreagh in the league, we just seemed to go from strength to strength.

“Getting Ciaran Gourley back was a big plus. If they play to their maximum, they'll not be far away."

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