Errigal Ciaran feel the force
On Sunday night as the Errigal Ciaran following gathered at the familiar spot of ‘Gormley's Corner' on the crest of Ballygawley's Main Street hill, the club chairman Cathal McAnenly recalled an announcement that was the genesis of the club's seventh Tyrone Championship, secured on Sunday with victory over defending champions Dromore.
After Peter Canavan had left the job of manager to take over the Fermanagh county side, the club executive set up a task-force to find a replacement. The work Ronan McGuckin had carried out with Derrylaughan Kevin Barry's had not gone unnoticed and before long, his services were secured for Errigal in the 2012 season.
During the first team meeting at their Dunmoyle club house, McGuckin held out his left hand and announced to the players that the O'Neill Cup would be resting there by the end of the year.
In the next breath, he said that he wasn't coming to Errigal Ciaran to make friends, that he had enough of them back home in Ballinderry. Yet in the wake of Errigal landing the big one by sweeping past Dromore in a powerful finish on Sunday, the mutual admiration between McGuckin and his players was absolute.
“In terms of getting the monkey off our back we had to start winning tight Championship games again,” said team captain, Enda McGinley. “I think we have done that this year and hats off to Tommy McDermott (team trainer) and Ronan McGuckin, they had us right from the start of the year when there was a sense of purpose around this team.”
As a centre-back for Ballinderry Shamrocks, McGuckin won an All-Ireland Club Championship back in 2002 and had a few tussles with Errigal men throughout the Ulster club, when they would “pick on poor wee me” as he said to laughter on the stage on Sunday night.
It had been said in recent times that Errigal lost the quality that helped them win their previous Championships in 1993, '94, '97, 2000, '02 and '06.
“From afar I have admired Errigal Ciaran and I knew some of the lads that were involved in that panel,” commented McGuckin.
“Soft centre? No, I never bought into that. Those boys don't have a soft centre, they showed that today.”
“It means a hell of a lot to me and maybe it would be better putting it to some of those lads who have suffered the hurt of the last six years.
“I think it's obvious for everybody here, that it means everything.”
Reflecting back on the semi-final win at Pomeroy, McGinley added; “The team have taken huge confidence from the win over Carrickmore. We had come through a tough Championship campaign, and each victory gave us more and more confidence and we had won very tight games. We were confident coming in here today.”
In doing so, Errigal delivered a performance where every member of the team performed to their best ability.
And while the likes of Thomas Canavan and Peter Harte are only at the start of their careers, it was the contributions of man of the match David Harte and Enda and Cormac McGinley that gripped hold of the game as Dromore stitched together a flurry of scores early in the second half to take the lead.
It was the culmination of a hard year on the training field, helped by the work of dedicated clubman Tommy McDermott, who also coaches the Errigal minors, revealed McGuckin; “I never doubted any members of my team and as a manager coming in here today and knew that they were going to empty the tank. Whether it was going to be good enough on the day, we were going to see.”
While praising the sporting gods sounds like gratitude for good fortune, Errigal had an awful lot of groundwork done on their opponents. Aidan McCrory kept Dromore's most consistent forward Eoin McCusker scoreless from play, while Ciaran Quinn held the dangerous Colm McCullagh to one point and also negated his influence, leaving Paul McIver to tamper with the balance of the Dromore attack by withdrawing McCusker deeper to try and get on more ball.
“It's not so much about matching fellas up,” explains McGuckin.
“I was confident in our defence that no matter who they were going out against they were going to put it up to them.
“They went out and did it on the day and that's all that matters. All the talk in the run-up to the final counts for nothing. We crossed the white line and did it on the day so I am more than happy.”
And onwards they go to the preliminary round of the Ulster club, an arena that will trigger the muscle memory of McGuckin and Errigal on October 21.