NEWTOWNSTEWART won’t have their heads spun by external events ahead of Sunday’s Junior Championship final against Beragh, according to their manager Marty McNulty.
It’s St Eugene’s first appearance in the decider since they last picked up the title with a convincing win over Brocagh in 2009, but this is a brand new team with a few notable exceptions.
Kevin Gallagher was the star man on that occasion as a sprightly 22-year-old – he’s still pulling up trees for his club in midfield – and Brendan Boyle is another prominent survivor of their last championship winning team.
Elsewhere there are new faces aplenty so their manager is determined that they don’t lose the run of themselves as they bid to take the final step this Sunday at the unconventional time of 6.45pm at Healy Park.
“There is excitement but we know the task at hand. We had an indifferent league campaign but we’re just keeping our feet on the ground and working hard in training.
“The mood in the camp is very focused. We’re focusing on every session and we’ll focus on the game itself as it develops. There’s a buzz around town and I’m sure it’s the same in Beragh. It’s good to see that but at the same time it’s not our primary concern.”
McNulty lined out with his native club Strabane for many years as a player, but he’s by no means a blow-in as his wife is from Newtownstewart.
He says their primary goal this season was winning a championship match, which they’ve achieved twice-over with wins over Castlederg and Clogher, but he was always confident they could make their mark even though they finished mid-table in Division Three.
They have a clean bill of health this weekend and it’s expected that Ballymena United soccer player Ryan Mayse will make an appearance despite missing out in their semi-final victory over league kingpins Clogher.
“We had a few injuries during the league and some lads were away travelling, but we knew that we’d get some of our players back.
“Our target since the start of the year has been getting past the first round of the championship, and we’re still taking it game-by-game.
“We’d no big target of glory or anything like that.”
Newtown’ have engaged in some extra training ahead of their biggest match in nearly a decade as a further indication of just how seriously they’re taking this match.
“We have a set training base but we’ve wanted to do a bit of extra work under lights so we’ve gone to Garvaghey and used the Melvin Complex in Strabane.
“This week we’re back to our home grounds, but we were just trying to get as much done now as possible as we’re conscious of the problems the weather can cause at this time of year.”
Newtownstewart have been in excellent form throughout the championship but their opponents Beragh have been a bit more consistent throughout the season, as McNulty acknowledges.
“They’ve won plenty of games in the league and were challenging the likes of Clogher and Eskra to the title. They then beat an excellent Eskra team in the first-round of the championship.
“We’re expecting a tough encounter. They finished ahead of us in the league and they’re there in merit but anything can happen in championship football.”
St Eugene’s were a little dependent on Aidan McSorley in attack during the league, but they’ve a healthier spread of scorers at present with eight men making the scoresheet in their 1-13 to 0-12 win over Clogher.
“We’re just trying to get everyone playing to the best of their ability whether it’s in defence or attack. We’re glad we’re getting more men on the scoresheet now, it’s something we’ve worked on in training.”
He claims they were hanging on at the end against Clogher with Kevin Gallagher’s early goal making the difference in the final reckoning, but they showed great character and determination to upset the odds.
“Clogher showed how good they are in the league and on the day we just got it right. We were hanging on a bit at the end.
“If the game had gone on a bit longer it could’ve gone to extra-time and who knows what would’ve happened then.”