THE curtain raiser for the Intermediate Championship sees Irvinestown take on Lisnaskea.

Both sides departed the competition last year at the quarter-final stage, which put them into the relegation dogfight – something they will both be keen to avoid this year.

Irvinestown lost to eventual winners, Enniskillen, while Belcoo defeated Lisnaskea.

The championship will be a chance for Irvinestown to make something of a disappointing season so far which has seen them relegated from Division One.

With the likes of Josh and Jack Largo-Elis, Kevin McDonnell and Stephen Sheridan they will feel they have the quality to give the competition a rattle.

Irvinestown boss, Lawrence Largo-Elis and his players have knuckled down since the league ended and he feels if they were that bit more clinical, things could have been different.

“We’ve been going hard at it, training, so we will be ready to go. The lads will be looking forward to it. We have had the performances in the league – we just haven’t had the results.

“It was very difficult to get any consistency going, but the championship brings out that little bit extra.”

Looking at his opponents, Largo-Elis knows they will have players that will need to be closely monitored, but admits they have been concentrating on themselves rather than looking too much at the opposition.

“We’ve been focusing on the fact they tend to be defensive but we are worrying about ourselves.

“We don’t really focus on the opposition. They will always have key players, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

“We hope to get our just desserts for the hard effort we have out in the year.”

His opposite number, Peter Clarke, believes his side are moving in the right direction this year and they were one of the sides that held a chance of promotion going into the final fixtures.

Lisnaskea have young, emerging talents in the shape of Justy and Joe McDade, along with Eoin McCabe and Dylan Tierney, and they will join the more experienced perfomers such as Conor Curran, Stephen Phair, Mark Smyth and Mark Kelly, although they will be without Niall McElroy, who has moved to the Middle East recently.

“We are a work in progress and we have been making steps in the right direction. We lost one or two from last year’s group, but we have blooded in a number of young lads and there will be nobody in the championship squad who will not have had game time in the league.

“Everybody knows what is expected, and any man who is used will be familiar with what to do.”

Clarke knows the dangers Irvinestown will pose but, just like Irvinestown, his side will be focused on what they have to do.

“Our focus will be on our own performance but we are well aware that Irvinestown have been a Division One team for a few years, and they have had an influx of good, young players like Josh Largo Elis and Jack Largo Elis to go along with the more experienced players like Kevin McDonnell and Stephen Sheridan.”

And Clarke now wants his side to show their capabilities in the championship: “We are a hard team to beat but we now have to step it up to win championship matches.

“This is a very strong championship, and it is about looking no further ahead than the first game.

“Win the first game, and you give yourself an opportunity to go through the front door, but lose the first game and you are facing the trap door.”