By Niall Gartland
FINTONA are gearing up for their first Junior Championship semi-final appearance since 2011, but their captain Niall Murray recognises they won’t get anything handed to them by a strong Aghaloo side.
The Pearses last reached the final four back in 2011, coming up short against Killeeshil, and it would be a big milestone for the club if they surmount the considerable challenge of Aghaloo under lights this Friday night in Omagh (7pm).
While Fintona claimed commanding victories over Urney and Drumquin en route to this point, Aghaloo are a different kettle of fish.
When they met in the league earlier on in the season, Fintona edged matters by a solitary point while they lost out to Aghaloo at the quarter-final stage of last year’s championship.
Commenting on the challenge ahead, skipper Murray said: “We played Aghaloo in our first league campaign this year and won by a point but they were down a few notable figures.
“They also beat us convincingly in the championship last year and reached the final. Aghaloo have a lot of championship pedigree and it’s going to be a very tough game.
“There were quite a few one-sided games in the earlier rounds but we know only too well that any team can pip another on any given day, especially given the nature of the Tyrone Championships.
“It’s all on the day and Aghaloo are definitely going to be a big step up. It’s a very competitive championship and we’re just happy to be among the semi-finalists.”
It’s been a fruitful season for the Pearses. They finished second in the league table so can still achieve promotion on two fronts, and Murray hopes that the senior men’s team can hold up their end of the bargain as their youth teams in particular are absolutely flying it at this point in time.
Murray said: “If you look at Omagh CBS’ Hogan Cup winning team, there was a really good representation of Fintona lads on that.
“We’ve youth teams competing in Grade One and being competitive, the u-20s in the Grade Two final, and the ladies were in Division One this year and retained their status.
“There’s a good buzz in the club and the hope is now that the senior men’s team can push on a bit and achieve promotion.”
Murray also paid tribute to their management team spearheaded by Martin ‘Archie’ Greene, who brings with him a lot of championship-winning know-how having led his native Derrygonnelly to three senior titles in as many years in his stint in charge of the Fermanagh club between 2015 and 2017. The management team have all been unreal. They definitely have that experience of winning championships but we’re just taking each game as it comes as cliched as it sounds. They’ve very good at keeping us motivated and getting us prepared for each round so it’s been really enjoyable.”