By Michael McMullan
ARDBOE manager Gavin Devlin’s eyes still danced with delight long after the final whistle of Saturday’s win over neighbours Moortown but he stressed it was only two league points.
Greencastle’s win over Coalisland on Friday night left this derby clash even more crucial in the “cutthroat” nature of a competitive league season.
“Moortown and Ardboe games are notorious,” beamed Devlin after Conan Devlin’s stoppage time goal clinched a 2-15 to 1-13 victory after an hour of quality club action.
The Ardboe boss spoke about the bumper crowd at Michael Coney Park, growing up hearing tales of Frank McGuigan working his magic on championship days against Moortown. He pointed to the beautiful rivalry.
“To walk out there today, for our players to go out in that game, it was just absolutely beautiful,” DevLin added.
“Make no mistake about it, it is only two league points. We weren’t in a good position, we had only four and we now only have six.
“There is part of if that it is a great game to be a part of, Ardboe and Moortown, but there is another part of it that we understand the value of those two league points.”
Ardboe now face a weekend off before a trip to league leaders Dromore. Devlin feels any game is winnable. To caveat that, any below par performance won’t cut the mustard either. That’s club football in Tyrone. No quarter asked, no quarter given.
“It is real relief up there today after the game,” he added, pointing to how an injury-ravaged Coalisland had overturned them in the previous outing.
“If you let enough of those games go, you can find yourself in a really bad place in this league.
“We know the important of the young people around here and we are trying to build something here for
“We want to be as competitive as we can be.”
‘Horse’ is happy with the attitude in training and the “great energy” among the younger players, but it’s about day on day and trying to grow into the season.
They’ll face Omagh when the race for the O’Neill Cup – a title they last won 25 years ago – begins but that doesn’t come into the thinking. Not for a while at least.
Getting bodies back on the field again is the short-term goal and having Michael O’Neill back from Tyrone duty was plus with his dictating of midfield putting Ardboe into the box seat by half-time in Saturday’s derby.
“DD (Mulgrew) gives us a new dimension. There is a bounce in him and he can make things happen when he is on the ball,” Devlin added.
“Mickey O’Neill, he is a trojan for us. He is a class man to have around the place, even at training and on the field.
“You feel safe that there is a real calmness in the team when he is about.”
He’d rather Tyrone were battling it out in the last four of the All-Ireland series, but Devlin appreciates how the inter-county quality will filter back into the club scene in the weeks ahead.
“Having the players back changes the shape of it (the league),” he explained.
“Now there is a real energy in the club scene.
“You just have to take a look around you here, there is a real energy in the club and we never want that to change.
“We are really proud of this place here; we want to build something and we have been down too long. We just want to be the best version of ourselves and move on.”