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Maiden triumph gave Dromore great belief says former skipper

By Niall Gartland

IT’S hard to believe that Dromore were once known as the nearly men of Tyrone football, but when they dismantled Coalisland in the senior championship final of 2007, it changed absolutely everything for the club.

It was Fabian O’Neill who climbed the steps of Healy Park to hold aloft the O’Neill Cup for the first time in Dromore’s history, but until that fateful day, he admits he had his doubts about whether they would ever manage to get over the line.

They’d lost six finals in total down through the decades, with not a solitary victory to show for their efforts on senior championship final day. There was even talk in those days that the team had fallen victim to an old priest’s curse (ring any bells, Mayo).

They didn’t even bother erecting bunting in the town in the lead up to their clash with Coalisland (they obviously didn’t want to tempt fate), and O’Neill, who was a warrior in the Dromore full-back line, admits that doubts nagged at him until they finally joined the roll of honour list in Tyrone, 61 years since their first final defeat, coincidentally also against Coalisland in 1946.

O’Neill said: “We were beaten by Carrickmore in the 2004 final and I remember when we were going off Fergal Gormley patted Brian Gormley on the back and joking ‘the curse is working on those boys.’

“That was the kinda carry on that was going on. We’d lost so many finals and there was this talk going around that there was a curse on us. Then when we won it in 2007, we were thinking “well what a load of rubbish that was!”

“But I’ve always said that we needed to build up that lead against Coalisland. If it was getting tight in the closing stages, those negative thoughts could’ve crept into our psyche. We needed to have a big lead to have the belief that we could get over the line.”

Dromore’s victory over Coalisland proved the catalyst for a golden period for the club. They reached five finals in six years in all, winning three of them, and they were more confident of enjoying the build up once 2007 was out of the way.

Fabian said: “I remember going back to reaching the final in 2004. It was our first since 1993 and we were thinking about what it would be like to win it, what it would be like go back to the town afterwards, rather than focusing on the task at hand.

“I remember chatting to Mickey McGirr a few years late, he’s an Errigal man and he has a dry sense of humour, and he said ‘jeez I thought you’d won the championship when I went through the town and saw all the bunting up.

“Then when it came to 2007 we just said there’ll be no bunting until we win this championship. To be honest I don’t think it was the right thing to do as fans should be able to enjoy it. It’s the players’ responsibility to focus on the match, but I suppose because we were going for our first title, we decided it would be best to keep it low-key.”

Dromore had some cracking players in that era – their best players on the day against Coalisland included O’Neill, Mickey Garry, Eoin McCusker, and Shaun ‘Snowy’ O’Neill, who scored five brilliant points from play. Their management team of Noel McGinn, Ryan Porter and Seamus Goodwin also played a big role behind the scenes.

“I remember Noel coming in, we’d have obviously known him, and at his first session he said ‘you boys are good enough to win the championship’ and I remembered wondering if he actually believed it. It was something we hadn’t really heard before. Ryan Porter had been with us since 2003 and he brought that professional eye to it, covering every scenario and set-plays, and Seamus Goodwin was a local man who managed the youth right through. There was a great mix there.”

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