Dromintee club helping Orchard blossom

Electric Ireland Minor Football Championship Final
Derry v Armagh
Sunday, O’Neill’s Healy Park, 2pm

By Shaun Casey

THESE are exciting times for the Dromintee club. Not just at present, with a number of their young players involved with the Armagh minor team managed by the club’s most famous son Aidan O’Rourke, but for the future as well.

The St Patrick’s club have started from the bottom, concentrating on their underage structures to produce players that are, on recent evidence anyway, ready to play at the highest level with heart, determination and of course plenty of skill.

O’Rourke, an All-Ireland winning defender and All-Star with Armagh back in 2002, has done a lot of the groundwork at the club and it’s fitting that he is now guiding these youngsters through their first steps of inter-county action.

Nine Dromintee players are involved in the team that are hoping to end Armagh’s 15-year wait for an All-Ireland Minor title. There’s the O’Rourkes, Gavin and Diarmaid (not related) and the Toales, Fergus and Fionn (also not related).

Tomás Fox, James McBennett, Conor Dunne, Michael Walker and Conor Laverty are the other Dromintee lads that are members of the Armagh squad.

If they do get over the line on Sunday afternoon, it’ll only be a third ever crown at this grade for the Orchard County.

The other two are spread across 60 years, so the gap between 2009 and 2024 doesn’t seem so long in contrast, but still, Armagh have had very little to shout about at underage level since that last title a decade and a half ago.

“I suppose I don’t really think of that,” chuckled O’Rourke when asked about the impact his club men have had on the current Armagh minor team.

“That is Stefan’s (Forker) job, to make sure there are not too many Dromintee boys.

“Every time I put a list out, he counts to see how many there are. From our club point of view, when you are knocking around, club people will stop to say it is great to have so many involved in the club. It hasn’t necessarily always been the way for us.”

The whole way up, these Dromintee boys have been winners, chalking off a lot of firsts for the club. League and championship medals have become the norm for this group, and they’ve grown used to collecting silverware at the end of each season.

They captured the All-Ireland u-15 Féile title in 2022, the first in the club’s history, beating Durlas Óg of Tipperary in the final, before going on to secure the Paul McGirr u-16 Ulster Club Championship crown at the end of last year.

Dromintee became just the third Armagh club to achieve such a feat, following up the successes experienced by Crossmaglen (2013) and Clann Éireann (2015) in years gone by. And they did so in style against an Errigal Ciaran team that had it’s own lofty ambitions.

Diarmaid O’Rourke (who was named as player of the tournament), Odhran Carnegie and Oisin Byrne all raised green flags in the thoroughly impressive 3-6 to 0-5 victory over the Tyrone champs.

At senior level, Dromintee have never won a Senior Championship title despite making five finals in ten years during the noughties. O’Rourke was involved in those teams that just couldn’t get over the line against the mighty Crossmaglen that dominated Armagh football.

And while minor achievements don’t always translate to senior success, there’s still plenty of excitement around Dromintee of what these young lads can accomplish, at both club and county level.

“We have just been lucky that we have a group of players that have come through together, brought each other on and probably helped each other as much as anything,” added O’Rourke. “To have that representation at county level is a very proud thing for the club.”

O’Rourke is only in his first year in charge of the Armagh minors, although he did have a previous stint in charge back in 2015, which certainly didn’t yield as much success as his current tenure has.

But he has a coaching CV that would impress anyone and has been involved in numerous high-performance operations. He was the Donegal manager for a period last season and has held coaching roles in Kildare, Armagh, Down and Louth as well.

Club bias can’t come into it of course when O’Rourke is lining out his matchday squad and the Dromintee man has to choose the players that are right for the occasion and do what is best for Armagh.

“It doesn’t really affect anything beyond that because when we are looking at players, we are just looking at who can do a job, whether starting or coming in, or picking 15 or 24, whatever needs done.

“The clubs don’t really matter although we will get back to that in a few weeks at some stage.”

Also, check out this week’s Gaelic Lives podcast as Monaghan minor manager Dermot Malone looks ahead to Sunday’s Electric Ireland All-Ireland minor final.

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


Gaelic Life is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW