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Veteran McGrath aiming to hit right note and end 50-year wait

 

Wise head: Marty McGrath will hope his experience can bolster Ederney’s bid to clinch their first Tyrone title in 50 years
Wise head: Marty McGrath will hope his experience can bolster Ederney’s bid to clinch their first Tyrone title in 50 years
John Campbell

By John Campbell

The first of this year's county Senior Football Championship finals in Ulster will be staged tomorrow when two clubs from opposite ends of the scale contest the Fermanagh decider.

While St Joseph's Ederney have to go back 50 years for their last title triumph, Derrygonnelly Harps will be chasing their fourth successive crown when the sides meet at Brewster Park, Enniskillen (4pm).

And for Ederney's long-serving Marty McGrath, the match will have special significance.

McGrath's honest toil over the best part of two decades in the Ederney jersey has reaped little in terms of honours but a Championship medal now in the twilight of his career would provide adequate compensation for past disappointments.

Since calling time on his lengthy involvement with Fermanagh some time ago, McGrath has applied himself even more diligently to the Ederney cause and sees tomorrow's game as an opportunity for his club to scale a new peak.

Memories of the 1968 final in which Ederney beat Newtownbutler may have dulled but while much has changed in the half-century since then, there is one common bond from McGrath's perspective at least.

His aunt Philomena Begley featured in the Irish country music charts then and is currently going as strong as ever.

"I think my biggest claim to fame is that I am Philomena's nephew," laughed McGrath. "But seriously, it's great to be in the Fermanagh final. We were there in 2007 but missed the boat. We could hardly be facing a bigger challenge than attempting to halt Derrygonnelly's current run."

McGrath's vast experience is complemented by the work rate of the McCuskers, Paul and Declan. In Derrygonnelly, St Joseph's will be coming up against a team at the peak of its powers.

The three Jones brothers, Garvan, Conal and Ryan, along with Michael Jones, who is no relation to them, help to provide an experienced edge while Tiernan Daly, Eamon McHugh, Paul Ward and Gary McKenna are other key players.

Meanwhile, four quarter-finals in the Tyrone Senior Football Championship will be played over the weekend. The pick of the bunch would appear to be the meeting of Errigal Ciaran and Coalisland at Carrickmore tomorrow (4.30pm).

Coalisland, with county stars Michael McKernan and Padraig Hampsey very much to the fore, got the better of Dromore in their last outing and this will certainly have boosted their confidence.

But Errigal Ciaran, with Peter Harte, Ben McDonnell and Aidan McCrory central to their strategy, have their sights firmly fixed on reclaiming the trophy.

Also tomorrow, Killyclogher will take on current champions Omagh St Enda's at Pairc an Locha (1pm).

Mark Bradley and Marty Swift are on song for Killyclogher while St Enda's can look to Ronan O'Neill, Conor Meyler and Conan Grugan to point them into the last four of the competition.

Ardboe, with Kyle Coney, Michael O'Neill and Shay McGuigan currently turning on the style, face a difficult challenge against Trillick tomorrow at Pomeroy (4.30pm).

Ritchie Donnelly will be an absentee from the Trillick side because of a troublesome cruciate injury but his brother Mattie, who is the current Tyrone captain, along with the talented Brennan brothers Lee and Rory can help to spark Trillick's challenge.

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