You’d need to have a calm head and a cool demeanour to do what Enniskillen skipper James Carleton does day in and day out. Sometimes scaling heights of 40 ft plus, the tree surgeon is taking Saturday’s final against Clogher Valley in his stride.
“I don’t feel nervous about this final and I’ve confidence in the young lads. I think it’s important for them to get control of those nerves, they can be useful but you need to manage them as well. Personally, I’ll be going in as if it’s any other competition and you have to put your best game out, really.”
Carleton has experience winning finals and will bring that know-how into Saturday’s decider. He was part of the Towns’ Cup and Ulster Junior Cup winning sides in 2019 and 2020. Now, Enniskillen has an opportunity to create another piece of history for the club and Carleton would love to lead them to that, in what he says will be his final season playing senior rugby;
“It’s a nice opportunity to win something. The Towns’ Cup, I don’t think we had won it in over 80 years and the Junior Cup we had never won. So this is another one we have never won and we wouldn’t be in the running for it too many years. So its nice to get the opportunity to do something new for the club.
“It’s probably my last year, so it would be nice to go out with that and a lot of the boys are in their first or second season of senior rugby, so it’s a great opportunity for them. Being in the running for it is testament to them.”
Carleton is 32 years old now and joined Enniskillen RFC after he left school. After a few years in Scotland at university and travelling in New Zealand the Enniskillen man returned to his home club about seven seasons ago. Now, the father to two-year-old Sophie says it’s the right time for him to make way for a new generation of players.
“I have a wee girl and your Saturday’s (are taken up), it’s a big commitment and now there’s plenty of young lads that we never had before, so there’s plenty of players to fill them spots.”
Added to that is the physical nature of his job. Carelton, who works all over the north with the company Mighty Oak Tree Care, says that ‘between work and rugby the body is starting to feel it.’
While Carleton very much plays down his impending exit at the end of the season saying, ‘I don’t think anyone would be too bothered’, he is fully focused on the task in hand and the remainder of the league as well.
It’s a mammoth task taking on the league contenders and reigning All Ireland Junior Cup champions Clogher, but Carleton is not putting too much emphasis on the local rivalry;
“You could be facing anyone and you go out and you play like you’re facing anyone.
“Clogher are a very good team but you could easily be facing Ballyclare or another provincial league leader, so I don’t think we’re too fussed on who we’re facing.
“It’ll add to the spoils at the end of the game for whoever wins but we’ll just go out and focus on ourselves. We are the underdogs, so we’ll just have to play the best game we’ve played all season and hope for the best.”
The final i’s will be dotted this week and t’s crossed as coach Stephen Welsh and his backroom team of Nick Finlay and Ryan Cathcart put the finishing touches to their preparation. Carleton has great faith in the setup and experience being imparted to this relatively young squad of players;
“Ryan was an addition this year and he’s brought the professional and technical aspect to fitness. It’s great and it seems to be paying dividends. Nicky has a lot of experience, I played with Nicky a good while and he has experience playing all over at a high level, so he certainly brings experience in the backs’ coaching.
“It’s a good set up at the minute, Stevie has been there for however long now and he’s got a few big cups under his belt and he’s getting results and it’s testament to his coaching.”
It will be Carleton’s fourth time playing at the Ravenhill venue this weekend, having played there for both the Towns’ Cup and Junior Final and before that with Portora. He believes it will lend itself to a good game of football with ‘lots of running rugby’.
Whether he climbs the steps to lift the cup alongside injured club captain Steven Fox remains to be seen but it would be a fitting end to Carleton’s career at the club if he could get his hands on the silverware.
To read more.. Subscribe to current edition
Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere