Belfast Telegraph

Monday 28 July 2014

Experience is everything in Ulster Club Championship

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

Richard Carey lifts the Derry Senior Championship trophy after Coleraine beat Ballinderry Shamrocks at Celtic Park
Richard Carey lifts the Derry Senior Championship trophy after Coleraine beat Ballinderry Shamrocks at Celtic Park

Ballinderry Shamrocks knew. Roslea Shamrocks have learned. Crossmaglen Rangers have somehow always known. To win a game in gaelic football's Ulster club championship, you must first earn your stripes.

Apart from Errigal Ciaran, no other Tyrone club have won the Ulster club title. You may find that strange and a pat analysis of that statistic might hold that club football in Tyrone is weak.

But the club Championship in Tyrone compares with anything country-wide and its knockout format is a throwback to the days of do-or-die exhilarating football. For teams that win the county's O'Neill Cup, it is the end of the journey. With the honourable exception of Errigal, Tyrone clubs have yet to truly embrace Ulster club football.

It is no surprise that the teams that have gone furthest in UIster have managed to dominate in their own county. St Gall's and Crossmaglen are shining examples of this, but there are signs that the likes of Glenswilly and Roslea are starting to catch on, having established themselves as top dogs in their own backyard.

With 15 minutes left on Sunday, Scotstown were four points clear of Ballinderry, in their first Ulster club foray in 20 years. They were playing the better football and had every match-up in their favour.

Until the finishing line came into view.

All of a sudden, a couple of dodgy decisions went against them, the Shamrocks players used their experience to buy a few frees, and the momentum swung irretrievably.

It's true what they say – you pick the old dog for the hard road.

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