Vale duo leading the charge for title clash
Faughanvale duo Joe Gray and Stephen King will enter the Ulster Junior Club Football championship final against Monaghan outfit Rockcorry at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh, tomorrow determined to fulfil contrasting personal ambitions.
Gray hopes to prove that there is still room within the GAA for that particularly rare species - a successful player-manager - while King is determined to erase the memory of the black card he incurred in the semi-final win over Templeport by taking delivery of the provincial trophy.
Along with his managerial team that comprises Michael McLaughlin, Shay Murrin and Ryan King, Gray, a cultured playmaker at centre-half-forward, has helped to steer Faughanvale into uncharted territory.
Even in winning the Derry championship, this homely club caused a stir but it was after beating Tyrone champions Brackaville in their Ulster Championship quarter-final that they really caused people to sit up and take notice.
Tomorrow, Gray's motivational dressing-room rhetoric and subtle skills on the field of play could have a big say in helping to bring the provincial prize to north Derry.
His influence in the side is underlined by full-back Michael Sweeney who can form a big barrier to Rockcorry's hopes of posting scores.
"Obviously Rockcorry have shown that they are a good side by the manner in which they have progressed into this final so we know exactly how tough it is going to be," says Sweeney.
King, meanwhile, was devastated when he incurred a black card in the semi-final against Templeport and is now anxious to make amends for his transgression when he leads the side out against Rockcorry.
A teak-tough centre-half-back, the father-of-three epitomises the spirit and hunger that have underpinned Faughanvale's championship odyssey to date.
Gray said: "Our whole focus now is on getting our hands on the Ulster junior title. That's all that matters as far as we are concerned."