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Damian Gormley finally gets chance to master an All-Ireland final

By Declan Bogue

Twenty years ago, he sat on the bench as a "fresh-faced 22-year-old" as Tyrone lost to Dublin in the senior All-Ireland decider.

Tomorrow, Damian Gormley finally gets his chance at All-Ireland glory as he captains the Tyrone Over-40s team in the Masters final against Galway, hosted by the Drumlish club, Longford.

Now 42-years-old, he admits that the bug for competitive action never left him. Even managing various club teams and being involved on the other side of the white line can never scratch that itch.

"There's no doubt about it, you have to love it to still do it because there are lots of aches and pains after a match," Gormley joked.

He was on the Tyrone panel from 1994 to 2002, and his brother Jody played midfield in that 1995 final against Dublin.

When Damian was winding down his own playing days, he took part in an Ironman event, a triathlon involving a two and a half mile swim, 130 miles of cycling and a marathon run.

When that was completed, he returned to play for his club, Trillick, in the 2009 All-Ireland Intermediate football semi-final, when they were beaten by St Michael's, Foilmore of Kerry.

"I am a bit slower now. Maybe I am a lot slower! Relatively, as you get older you lose two yards of pace!" he laughed.

Masters football is something of an unloved GAA competition, and had a measure of controversy attached to it last year when the GAA's Central Council withdrew its endorsement of the series.

Ahead of last year's Shield final between Tyrone and Cavan, a Croke Park spokesperson said: "We used to have a Masters competition, but that came to an end.

"There were a few reasons for that, but primarily insurance costs and the difficulty in obtaining proper cover for players of that age, who wanted to play in a competitive environment."

That led to the formation of the Gaelic Masters Association. Players now cover their own costs and pay £25 for their own personal insurance over the course of a season.

And they have had no problem attracting a sponsor, according to captain Gormley.

He added: "We have a sponsor in Quinn Coach Hire from Moortown who came in and sponsored a set of jerseys. The fact that it was on TV last year got it a bit of a better profile.

"As it goes on, people become interested. When the press get their hands on it and start speaking to people, it creates a bit of interest."

Evidently, there is something in the genes with his drive to play football.

Another brother, Eoin, is still playing at midfield for Trillick in their fairytale run in the Ulster club campaign at the age of 36. He is a cousin of Trillick forwards Niall and Shane and another veteran touching 40, Eunan McAnespie, who is on the panel.

If that wasn't enough, he is also first cousin of one Ryan McMenamin, who is still going strong with neighbours Dromore.

Tyrone have beaten Monaghan and Cavan to get to this final. It will be screened on Sky TV on the Irish TV Channel 191, live from 1pm tomorrow.

Belfast Telegraph


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