By Niall Gartland
ROCK St Patrick’s have done extraordinarily well in Junior Championship level down the years, both in Tyrone and further afield, and the obvious next step is to make their mark at Intermediate level as well.
Division Two champions Eglish may be favourites for this weekend’s quarter-final clash, but the Rock know how to win championship games and they’ll be quietly confident of pulling off an upset.
Defender Aidan Girvan – who won Ulster Junior Championship titles in 2014 and 2016 – delivered a customary all-action performance in the Rock’s victory over Aghyaran after extra-time a fortnight ago, and he can’t wait for the next challenge against Mattie McGleenan’s Eglish.
“It’s a big challenge for us but that’s what we want – we want to move forward as a group. I’ve played in a lot of Junior Championship campaigns down the years and relished every moment of it, but I feel the younger lads have the ability to challenge at Intermediate level and it’s good to set high standards for ourselves.”
The Rock narrowly escaped the play-off berths so they entered the championship arena safe in the knowledge that they will be playing Division Two football no matter what.
It’s been a weight off the shoulders, and 33-year-old Girvan, who captained the Tyrone minor team in 2007, is loving his football at present.
“I’ve been playing a fairly long time now and it’s been a long time since we wrapped things up in the league ahead of the championship, usually we have play-offs. It was really nice to go into the Aghyaran game and not having to think about the league. For me personally I’ve really enjoyed the lead up to the championship and I hope the other boys too.”
They did it the hard way in their comeback victory over Aghyaran, overcoming an 0-5 to no score deficit early on to eventual run out victors after extra-time. Their resilience isn’t in question and it will become apparent against Eglish whether they also have the quality to make it to the business end of the Intermediate Championship.
Girvan said: “We’d talked about avoiding a slow start but we may have been caught on the hop a bit. It shows character that we were able to turn things around, it was great to see.”
Liam Nugent was in exceptional form in attack, scoring eight points, including two absolutely crucial injury time points, while Aidan McGarrity got better and better as the game against Aghyaran wore on. Girvan says it makes things easier for the entire team when forwards like Nugent and McGarrity keep the scoreboard ticking over nicely.
“Liam was injured at the start of the year and getting back was a big boost to us. Aidan’s very reliable to get a score or two. It’s great to have those boys about, whenever things are sticky for us defenders you can always rely on them to keep our heads above water.”