Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Declan Bogue: Errigal’s big shout in Ulster

Errigal Ciaran will now turn their attention towards winning the Ulster Club Championship

Errigal Ciaran captain Enda McGinley had just delivered a speech for the ages after the Tyrone final, even memorably rifling Peter Canavan's famous line from the steps of the Hogan Stand in 2003. Once he was finished, reporters pounced.

McGinley, whose side had beaten Dromore 0-13 to 0-8, was thinking of the delirium that gripped his team mates as they did a jig of delight a few yards away, though the questions were of the next day.

The Cavan final had not even been completed at this stage, but McGinley was asked how he felt about meeting the winners in the preliminary round of the Ulster Club Championship.

He stuck to the script, saying: “Cavan clubs are always very sticky opponents in the Ulster Club. They always do very well.

“People maybe look at the county senior team, which is going through a tough time, but the Cavan club champions always tend to do very well.”

Naturally, McGinley wasn't going to give any side something to stick up on the dressing room door.

Scratch the surface a little though and it becomes apparent that for all the tradition and respect that Cavan football earned decades ago, their record in Ulster is atrocious.

Even more surprising than that though is, with the honourable exception of Errigal, the record of highly-regarded Tyrone clubs in Ulster is poor, considering the esteem that their club football is held in by outsiders.

Over the past five years, Cavan champions have only managed two wins in the provincial stage — in 2007 Cavan Gaels beat St Eunan's before losing to St Gall's.

The year after that Cavan Gaels seemed to be making good ground when they tumbled the Gall's out in the first round, then were ousted themselves by Ballinderry.

Given their supremacy on the domestic scene with seven titles in the last nine years, the Gaels gathered much experience but could never translate it into becoming a serious threat. They never even reached a final.

The record of Tyrone clubs over the last five years is also unhealthy. After their three O'Neill Cups, Dromore only managed one win, after a replay with Mayobridge, before bowing out with an honourable one-point defeat to Crossmaglen in Clones.

The surprising thing is that was in 2007, and in their campaigns since they were shown the door by Clontibret (2009) and Ballinderry (2011).

The only other win was by Coalisland, when they edged past a limited Roslea Shamrocks side by virtue of Johnny Curran's incredible last-gasp save from a goal-bound shot.

First-timers Naomh Conaill from Donegal then dismissed them in the next round on a pea-souper of a foggy day in Brewster Park.

Betting odds for the Ulster club campaign were marked up this week by Paddy Power, offering Errigal Ciaran at 20/1. One can only assume this is based on the path they would have to negotiate — through Mullahoran before facing the Derry and Armagh champions, before possibly meeting St Gall's in the final.

It is a treacherous path and there are a lot of big beasts on their side of the draw. But Errigal Ciaran have an outstanding tradition in Ulster.

No Tyrone team has won the Seamus McFerran Cup, other than Errigal (1993 and 2002).

That first triumph came only three years after factions of Ballygawley and Glencull combined to form the club.

They also made it to deciders in 1997 and 2000 before losing to Derry clubs Dungiven and Bellaghy respectively.

The 2002 win also came about in trying circumstances as they drew with Crossmaglen twice before going on to beat Ballinderry in the semi-final and then Enniskillen Gaels in the final.

Ten years ago, Pascal Canavan had his jaw broken in that Ulster club final, yet still lifted the trophy as captain.

On Sunday, the club he manages in Fermanagh, St Patrick's Donagh, made it a mathematical impossibility for Enniskillen to win promotion back to division one in 2013, and so they embark on their third season in four years in division two.

That perfectly illustrates how easy it is to let things slip. In Ballygawley on Sunday night, the unsung heroes got a name check and a cheer for all the unseen toil it takes to keep a club on the right path.

Errigal are in the full of their health, and they have an Ulster club warrior in charge of them.

They are worth keeping an eye on.

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