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13th Jan 2015

Portaferry glad to have 350km trek for All-Ireland semi-final

Will there be scenes like this on February 7th

Kevin McGillicuddy

They’ll earn some serious mileage for this

The GAA has revealed where the AIB GAA All-Ireland club hurling and football semis will take place next month and for some teams involved they may have to pack a few dozen sandwiches and more than a few flasks of tea for the journey.

That’s especially the case for Ulster champions Portaferry, who will face a monster trek of 350km or over 220 miles to Thurles for their last four clash with Limerick’s Kilmallock next month.

Not that it’s a worry for their manager Sean Young, who says the Down club are looking to make history by becoming the first men from the Mourne county to reach Croke Park on March 17th.

An All-Ireland semi final day is no time to be admiring the width of the pitch in the so called ‘Home of Hurling ‘and Young and his management team are hoping an early trip down to Tipp will help alleviate nerves: ‘We went ahead and are going to travel on down to Thurles and have a training session there. That will sample a bit of Semple for them and take that edge off them, so that they are not going out on matchday focused on the size of the pitch or the scenery.”

The game throws in at 2pm which may make it awkward for some supporters to travel but that won’t concern the Ulster champions who will be all tucked up in Tipperary the night before after deciding to travel the day before the game,

We were always going to leave on the Friday evening. We might have considered travelling down the day of the match but for anything further than Dublin it was always going to be an overnight stop for the team.

They might even get a chance to pop in to Lar Corbett to get some tips before Saturday’s game.

The Down champions are hoping to cause a huge upset but they are determined to enjoy the occasion as well as embracing their underdog status. For the manager he admits that the club have exceeded all expectations in the past 12 months,

‘If anyone had said to us this time last year that our biggest worry in a year would be the venue of the All-Ireland club semi-final, I would have laughed at them!’

The Down side have enjoyed just two days off since their Ulster success over Cushedall-Christmas Day and New Year’s Day – and are totally focused on the challenge ahead.

Young is hopeful all the preparation will see the team peak for February 7.

We figured out an eight-week plan and Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are the only two days they have taken off and they’re the only days they wanted.’

So it seems it all systems go for Portaferry and all that’s left now is to get the sat-nav ready for a monster road trip to Tipperary.

The second club hurling semi final is fixed for the same day at 3.45 as Leinster champions Ballyhale Shamrocks face the men from the west, Gort, also in Thurles.

Somewhat unusually the football will not be a double header due to Austin Stacks agreeing to a change of date request by Slaughtneil of Derry. The Ulster side are understood to have a club wedding on Saturday February 14 and so will play the Kerry champions on Sunday the 15 in O’Moore Park Portlaoise at 4pm.

The opening AIB GAA Football All-Ireland senior club semi final sees the Andy Merrigan holder’s St Vincent’s face Corofin  of Galway on Saturday the 14 at 2pm in O’Connor Park in Tullamore.

H/t to the Belfast Telegraph

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