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Áit Speisialta … A Special Place

By tyronepro Wed 21st Feb

Tyrone Gaels are certainly looking forward to Saturday night for a first visit in a long time to one of Gaelic Ulster’s great football venues, St Mary’s Park, Castleblaney. Home of the local Faughs Club, 37-time Champions of Monaghan and twice Champions of Ulster, St Mary’s Park through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s hosted many top Ulster GAA fixtures, including some memorable Tyrone-related ones.
Tyrone first visited the ground for a Championship match on 11 July 1954 when we fell marginally, by 3-10 to 2-10, to a Cavan team at the height of its Ulster domination and about to win a 33rd Ulster title.
Five years later, on 21 June 1959, we were back for a 1-7 to 0-9 win over Monaghan, with Thady Turbett, Jody O’Neill and Frankie Donnelly among those still on board from 1954.
In late 1972 we travelled there with Ardboe for the Ulster Club Final but saw the Rossas fall by 0-8 to 1-3, in what would the start of a three-in-row Ulster Club titles for that wonderful (Lurgan) Clann na Gael team.
Three years later, on 1 June 1975 we lost by 0-13 to 1-5 to Monaghan in the Ulster SFC with this team: Barry Campbell, Mickey John Forbes, Peter Mulgrew, Aidan McMahon, Mickey Hughes, Mickey Jordan, Gerry Taggart, Brendan Donnelly, Liam Turbett, Dominic Daly, Patsy Kerlin, Frank McGuigan, Brendan Beggs, Eugene Bradley and Phelim Forbes. The pattern persisted into 1981 when on 17 May we lost an Ulster SFC preliminary tie by 2-9 to 0-6 to the home team.
It took another eight years for the tide to turn but finally on 25 June 1989 we enjoyed a tempestuous Ulster Semi-Final win by 1-12 to 1-7 over a hotly-fancied Down team, even though we played much of the match with 13 men. We then cruised to a replay win over Donegal in the Ulster Final to bring us our Sixth Ulster title. Coincidentally, after that we wouldn’t win another Championship match for four years whilst the two Counties we easily dispatched that hot summer, Down and Donegal, would go on to win outstanding All-Irelands.
Our team that day in Castleblaney was Finbar McConnell, Sean Donnelly, Ciaran McGarvey, Raymond Monroe, John Lynch, Enda Kilpatrick, John McGoldrick, Plunkett Donaghy, Harry McClure, Ciaran Corr, Damian O’Hagan, Stephen Conway, Mickey McClure, Kevin McCabe and Sean McNally. Involved  with the Armagh Minors in that day’s curtain-raiser were a Kieran McGeeney, a Cathal O’Rourke and a Neil Lennon: whatever happened to them?
St Mary’s Park is well-changed since we were last there, with a new pitch, floodlights, running-track and 2,000-seat stand in place. One thing that won’t have changed will be its status, style and atmosphere as a special place to play and watch football.
Virtually every Ulster football legend of the past half-century-plus has played there. Honour them by coming along to one of the great GAA venues: don’t miss it this Saturday night. And by the way, there’ll be a Tyrone team there to be supported too!

By tyronepro Wed 21st Feb

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