Band of brothers

MOST club teams are back-boned by family relations. In their pomp, Crossmaglen had the Kernans, there were (and still are) the Canavans in Errigal Ciaran, even now in Kilcoo it’s the Johnstons and Branagans that make up most of the team sheet.

Corduff may be a little different. Maybe a lot different. The McEnaney surname is, of course, the standout in their panel and in their management team too, but the Corduff family tree branched out past just the McEnaneys.

There are also the Keenan brothers, the Marrons, the Connollys, the Hands and substitute Brendan McNally’s brother Martin, is part of the backroom team.

Corduff is one big, tight-knit family. “There’s a big family there, a big family connection but the mentality in Corduff is once you put on the black, white and amber jersey we’re all family, we’re all brothers. Once you cross the white line, we’re all together in it,” said towering midfielder Mark McEnaney.

Mark is the son of Tom McEnaney, who captained Corduff to a Junior League and Championship double in 1993, a side that included five McEnaney brothers.

There are eight McEnaneys on the present panel that are vying for Ulster success this weekend. There’s Gavin and John, they belong to manager Seamus. Dylan, Conor and Christopher are Pat’s fellas (Pat is part of the management team) and Keith and Sean are sons of the late Michael.

Of the current crop, Keith and Gavin hold the spine in the forward line, Mark lines out at centerfield, while four of the six defensive slots are filled my McEnaneys. Conor is the rock at centre half-back while John, Sean and Dylan make up the full-back line.

It’s a tough defensive group, bonded by blood, that will face possibly their toughest test to date against a free-scoring Galbally side on Saturday.

“They were here in 2019 and our neighbours Magheracloone beat them, so they’ve been around the block, they know what this is about,” said Mark on the Tyrone champions.

“For us, this is brand new territory, it’s the land of the unknown but that’s the way it is, we’re enjoying it and we’ll just take it as it comes.

“We’ve seen a couple of their games and they’re good at scoring goals. They have a strong attacking presence up front and their going to be very hard to beat. They’re strong, seasoned campaigners and a really good outfit.

“Our defensive structure is probably something we have got a lot better at this year and to be honest a lot of it is down to our defence coach Liam Maguire. He’s brought us all in working as a unit and it’ll be massive this week that we all bring that together.”

Mark and his cousins are carrying on a great family tradition. When Corduff last won the Intermediate Championship in 1998, Seamus was player-manager, Tom was a selector, and the other three brothers were all on the team.

Now 24 years on, there’s a new generation of McEnaneys that have brought silverware to Corduff in form of a league and championship double, and they’re eyeing up more before the year is out.

“Winning the championship together, it was very special with all of us involved in it,” added Mark. “There were eight players and two of the management team, Seamus and Pat, so there was ten of us all involved.

“Obviously, all the rest of the boys there as well and all played their part, it was really incredible to be honest, a great feeling.”

That family spirit has certainly helped throughout the course of the Ulster Championship, particularly the last day against Castlerahan when things weren’t all going to plan.

The Cavan champions bagged a goal inside the opening 20 seconds and while Corduff battled back into contention, they never actually got their noses ahead until the final few moments of the game.

Diarmaid Marron chipped over a late score to level the tie before brother Cillian popped up with his first point of the campaign and that proved to be the winning score.

“We know that every man beside on the field has your back and I suppose that is in the back of your head. If it’s going to go down to the wire, you’re going to have a man that’s going to be willing to die beside you.

“Seamus is all about brotherhood and it doesn’t matter if you’re brother and sister or whatever you are, we’re all in it together no matter what.

“Whoever has that black and amber jersey on, he’s going to be willing to die beside you.”

It’s a family thing. It’s a tight knit unit. Is that enough to get over the line on Saturday? Possibly not, but it’s got Corduff to where they are, and they’ll certainly be in with a chance.

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