Countdown to final as big two fight for top club title
Three All-Ireland senior football titles within a six-year period could safely be guaranteed to sate the appetite of any county.
But then Tyrone is not just any county. Since the dawn of the new millennium the Red Hands have been challenging themselves robustly at all levels and now a fresh target has been erected according to chairman Ciaran McLaughlin.
“Obviously we are delighted to have won three All-Ireland titles but I would have to be honest and say that we would very much welcome the arrival of an Ulster club title and perhaps an All-Ireland club crown here,” reveals McLaughlin.
“We believe that our own domestic club championship is on a par with that of the best counties and we would love to land one of the major club prizes.”
Tyrone have looked as Crossmglen Rangers in neighbouring Armagh have stockpiled eight Ulster club titles and five All-Ireland club accolades but have far from begrudging the Orchard County representatives their prodigious haul, McLaughlin views this as the benchmark for other teams.
“Let’s face it, Crossmaglen have set the tone but I believe that other Ulster sides can now pick up the gauntlet including teams in Tyrone,” insists McLaughlin.
It’s little wonder then that he is particularly looking forward to Sunday’s county championship final between Dromore and Clonoe, two sides who have proved major forces in recent years.
Dromore only won their first-ever title in 2007 but followed this up with another triumph in 2009 while Clonoe took delivery of the crown in 2008.
Now Dromore will be seeking a third honour in four years and McLaughlin, one of the most dynamic and visionary chairmen in the country, believes that both they and Clonoe are more than capable of flying the flag for Tyrone on the provincial and national stages in fine style.
“There is tremendous interest in Sunday’s final chiefly because of the recent track records of both teams. We have had a tremendous county championship to date and we should have a great climax now,” says McLaughlin.
Dromore were singularly unfortunate in the Ulster Club series in 2007 and 2009 but manager Paul McIver is looking no further than the county decider.
“Clonoe is the only team on our radar. When you look at the way they have responded to Damian Cassidy again this year you just know that this is a massive challenge for us,” says McIver.
Tyrone’s triple All-Ireland winning defender Ryan McMenamin will anchor the Dromore defence while Sean O’Neill, Cathal McCarron and Colm McCullagh are other key players in the side.
Clonoe’s strength, stamina and intensity carried them to a stunning quarter-final victory over title favourites Carrickmore after
extra-time before they had a ten-points winning margin over Derrylaughan at the semi-final stage when fine contributions from midfield duo Stephen McNulty and Shane O’Hagan underpinned their overall performance.
Former Dungannon Swifts player Shane Coney is the defensive general at centre-half-back while Emmett Teague is an inspiring captain with Ryan T O’Neill, Colm Doris, Damien Burke and Conor McAliskey other key players.
The winners’ prize will be an Ulster club quarter-final tie against newly-crowned Derry champions Ballinderry who certainly will have their spies out in force at Healy Park on Sunday.