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North Tyrone derby duels galore
The big boys in Senior Football will probably grab the bulk of the limelight over the coming weeks and months once the All-County Leagues kicks into action this Sunday afternoon, but around North Tyrone the main focus will be on Division Two this season.
Five clubs in that vicinity are among the sixteen contenders plying their trade at Intermediate level in 2013, which should ensure a fair smattering of enticing derby fixtures to whet the appetite of players and supporters.
Cookstown’s recent All-Ireland success in this grade again demonstrated the unprecedented breadth of talent within Tyrone football and underlined the fact that its second tier league is arguably the most competitive in the whole of the country.
One interested observer this year will be former Tyrone player and Strabane Sigersons stalwart Liam Sweeney who has taken up the managerial reigns across the border at the Lifford club in 2013.
A veteran of many an arduous Intermediate league campaign over the years, he has no doubts that the dog-eat-dog nature of the action in Division Two means that no side is guaranteed a leisurely Sunday stroll on any weekend.
“Sometimes in Division One you can have leagues within leagues but it’s not like that in Division Two. You can have maybe as little as three points separating about eight teams in the standings which was the case at the end last year. That’s is how tight and competitive it is.
“It’s as good a standard of Intermediate football as there is anywhere I would argue. The achievements of the likes of Cookstown now twice in the All-Ireland bear that out. You have these sides who come down from Senior football from time to time but still have really strong squads and that’s what makes it so tough for everyone.”
The presence of Strabane, Urney, Gortin, Aghyaran and Clann na nGael all in the mix, should ensure that plenty of bragging rights are up for grabs this season. Sweeney feels it can only add to the excitement and interest locally.
“When the fixtures come out I’d say all the players were looking to see when the derby games were and if they had hone advantage, because that can be key. If you have long away trips to the likes of Brackaville, Moortown or Stewartstown say, you need to be picking up points in the local derbies because it’s tough to get anything on the road to those places.”