St Gall’s take on Kilmurry Ibrickane from County Clare in the All-Ireland Club Football Championship final on St Patrick’s Day, and University of Ulster researcher Dr Conor McClean is hoping to help his side to victory.
Dr McClean was a member of the St Gall’s team that reached the final in 2006. On that occasion the west Belfast side suffered a heartbreaking one-point defeat at the hands of Salthill – something he doesn’t want to happen again.
“Losing that game was hard to take after the great performances we had put in during that campaign and now hopefully we have the chance to put right that wrong,” Dr McClean said.
“We are up against strong opponents but we are quietly confident. As long as we can execute our plan and tactics, and concentrate on our own performance, we can come away with something from the game.”
The 28-year-old, will be hoping for family celebrations on finals day as he will line out alongside his brother Andy, who works for the Sports Institute Northern Ireland which has its home at Ulster’s Jordanstown campus.
The St Gall’s set-up is full of University of Ulster connections, with the squad consisting of many students and graduates.
Andy McClean, a Sport and Exercise Sciences graduate, is joined on the team by a host of alumni including Ciaran McGourty, Aodhan Gallagher and Ronan Gallagher. Current students Mark McGowan and Peter Owens are also among the Naomh Gall hopefuls.
The University has also been instrumental in the preparations for the Falls Road club, as the state-of-the-art Third Generation indoor training pitch at Jordanstown’s campus played host to the team during the winter, when bad weather brought frozen pitches and a training dilemma for team managers.
“The university has been fantastic to us, giving us access to the facilities at such short notice when outdoor pitches were frozen and unplayable, it allowed us the chance to train when other clubs didn’t,” said Dr McClean.
The showpiece event of club football takes place in the home of the GAA, Croke Park, on 17 March with throw in at 3:45pm.