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Swift savours Killyclogher's overdue bid to rule Ulster

By John Campbell

Thirteen is certainly not proving an unlucky number for Killyclogher defender Martin Swift.

The former Tyrone player finds himself just 60 minutes away from leading his club into an Ulster Club Senior Football Championship final for the first time which would offer him the chance of adding to the second County Championship medal he has already secured this year.

It was back in 2003 as a fledgling substitute that the tough-tackling Swift shared in the honours when Killyclogher emerged as top dogs in Tyrone before making a rather tame exit from the Ulster Club series.

It's rather different this time round, though. Killyclogher will enter Sunday's provincial semi-final against a strong Slaughtneil side not only bolstered by their success in the O'Neill county flagship competition but further buoyed by a handsome win over Cargin at the quarter-final stage of the provincial series.

For Swift, Sunday's semi-final offers a challenge he did not think he would get at this stage of his career.

"We had tried to win the Tyrone title since 2003 but never managed to achieve it. Things, though, have come right this year," he reflected.

"There are a lot of boys who have given great service to the team and it's tremendous for them and indeed for everyone else to see the club now battling for Ulster honours.

"I remember the 2003 final well because I was just a 17-year-old who was breaking into the team. Our title win created a massive buzz around the whole club, but overall that team probably underachieved.

"It's just a pity that they didn't get another county title. Half of them were fairly young at that time, but it's only now that we have something to celebrate because it took us a long time to get back to this level."

If Killyclogher's patience has been rewarded on the domestic front, then their ambition has since been refuelled at the prospect of perhaps emerging as the top team in Ulster.

However, they know that an arduous road has still to be negotiated before they can contemplate the arrival of a second trophy within a matter of weeks.

"There is no doubt that we face a massive challenge against Slaughtneil. They have been there or thereabouts for the past few years and they were in the All-Ireland Club final a couple of years ago so we know for sure what they are made of," insisted Swift.

The arrival of new Killyclogher manager Dominic Corrigan, the former Fermanagh boss, at the start of this year was to have big implications for Swift in particular.

"When he informed me that he would like me to be captain I was flattered and naturally I have deemed it a special honour to lead the side this year," reflected Swift.

"We knew if we were to win the Tyrone title we were going to have to do it the hard way and we did. Then we had to face Cargin which was no easy task and Slaughtneil form a barrier."

Manager Corrigan, pleased with the progress that his men have made, believes that their unshakeable spirit and sense of unity can stand them in good stead against a Slaughtneil side which was fully extended by Derrygonnelly in last month's quarter-final, in sharp contrast to last year when they scored a convincing win over them in the Ulster Club series.

"We won't be putting any store by what happened in Slaughtneil's quarter-final," stated Corrigan.

"This is a whole new ball game on Sunday and we will need to lift our game accordingly. We had challenged ourselves to win the Tyrone title and having accomplished that we must now raise the bar higher for ourselves.

"The Ulster Club Championship is an extremely difficult route to negotiate but we have gained in confidence and maturity, I feel, as we have moved along.

"Obviously it would be great to get to the Ulster Club final but this will take a massive performance come Sunday."

Belfast Telegraph

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