PALOR McNulty has more reason than most to savour the build-up to this today’s derby clash between Division One strugglers Urney and Strabane.
The Clady-born man is tied by kith and kin to both north Tyrone clubs – his nephews James and Marcus Kelly play for Urney while he also has long-standing connections with Strabane Sigersons.
And while he will remain forever connected to Urney by birth, he admits he is in a dilemma about who to support this weekend – he has resided in Strabane for decades and has had successful stints managing both clubs.
McNulty was at the helm in Strabane when they overcame Urney in a promotion play-off back in 2013, but you have to delve a bit deeper into the history books to find their most recent joust at senior level all the way back in the 1940s.
He said: “I’m in a real quandary here at the minute, what I’m really looking forward to is two top-class teams maybe struggling for points fighting for their lives.
“That’s all you can ask for, it’ll be like a championship atmosphere. All you can do is support the efforts of both teams.
“What you basically have is second and third generation people from Urney living here in Strabane who have torn loyalties.
“If you ask me where I’m from, I say I’m from Urney but I’m living in Strabane. I’ve been in Strabane almost 50 years so it shows you the connection with your homeplace.”
McNulty enjoyed a successful four-year stint at Strabane in the early part of the decade during which they won the Ulster league and achieved their long-awaited return to the senior ranks.
He came on board again last year before being replaced by Omagh St Enda’s veteran Kenny Clarke this season.
He is confident they can stay afloat in the ‘minefield’ of Division One football, buoyed by a recent win over Pomeroy and draw with Coalisland.
“I do miss managing the Strabane team. I grew up in Urney and I managed to get them promoted three or four different times. I still have a great bond and still have two sisters living there. But I still have a great bond with Strabane too, my son Martin played for them and I’ve two nephews involved.
“They had a very good game against Pomeroy, it could’ve gone either way but Strabane edged it. They got a great point against Coalisland but at the weekend we had a disappointing result against Ardboe.
“The thing about this here is that the first division is like a minefield. Looking back to last year, we inherited a very young team at Strabane. We struggled a bit in the first half of the season but they came good and in the last two games we beat Errigal and Trillick to stay up. There’s some great players coming through at Urney as well.”
McNulty steered Urney to promotion to the senior ranks all the way back in 1996. Following a lengthy drought they achieved the same feat again late last season but have yet to leave their imprint on Division One football.
He still wouldn’t be surprised if they turn their season around, however.
“It was a milestone for us in 1996. I think it was 50th anniversary, we put a bit of effort into it but we made the play-off and beat a very good Trillick team up in Drumquin. That team was a veteran team but this present Urney side is different, there’s a nucleus of a good side there.”
He expects Urney’s scoring talisman Johnny Lafferty to play on Saturday night despite being hampered by injury this season.
“The rumour mill has been going round. They rested him on Sunday [against Dromore] but he’s a great clubman and he’ll be there, he’ll play through the pain barrier and you’d expect nothing else of a man like that.”