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Pat King will be remembered for his character on and off the pitch

By Declan Bogue

While putting together an article on the untimely death of Trillick, Tyrone, Lisnaskea and Fermanagh legend Pat King, I wanted to do some fact checking.

A quick phone call to current Tyrone and Trillick footballer Matty Donnelly revealed that King was one of the select few to have won five Tyrone Championships with Trillick in 1974, 1975, 1980, 1983 and 1986.

Matty spoke of Pat with a reverence that is rarely found in young men.

Pat won his last as a 39-year-old full-back and played in the following year's final against Ardboe, marking Frank McGuigan. By coincidence, the two played in the same Tyrone forward line that won the 1973 Ulster Championship, Frank coming on as a 17-year-old substitute in the final against Down.

As a schoolteacher in St Eugene's in Roslea, King lived in Lisnaskea. His sons Shane and Barry played with the local Emmets club and Pat eventually switched his allegiance.

In 1994, with 'Skea struggling in a Championship semi-final against Erne Gaels, Pat entered the fray as a 47-year-old, scored a goal and booked them a final place, where they beat Enniskillen Gaels.

My own father was a schoolteacher and the two of them had a friendship that went back decades, bonded together by their love of outdoor pursuits; bringing school groups camping, skiing, canoeing and any other range of activities.

On those weekends, there was normally a car that would show up early on the Sunday to whisk King away to a match somewhere.

One summer he brought his son Ronan and they camped alongside us in Mullaghmore, Co Sligo. We spent a fair bit of time together.

But in all that time, I never once heard him mention the six Championships, or even what he did as a manager in revolutionising what a county like Fermanagh might achieve.

In small-town Ulster, and there are few more perfect examples of this than Trillick and Lisnaskea, there is a special level of esteem for men who are able to play football and hurling.

To win six county Championships spread over a 20-year period puts you on a different level altogether.

But as his former county team-mate Patsy Hetherington said on Monday: "Whenever you met him after your football days he was always the same Pat King. He never ran anyone down."

That's the ultimate tribute.

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