By Niall Gartland
IT’S been a special few months for Stewartstown and their ace attacker Dan Lowe hopes they can take things to another level by booking their spot in Croke Park for All-Ireland final day.
Standing in their way of a place in the final are Galway opponents Clifden, whom they face on Saturday afternoon at Dr Hyde Park in Roscommon.
The Harps have trained hard over the Christmas period with the usual festive activities taking a backseat, and Dan Lowe, who scored 2-2 in their ‘Twinning Final’ victory against Glasgow Gaels last month, says they feel the backing of the rest of Tyrone as they head into this weekend’s All-Ireland semi-final clash.
Lowe said: “There’s been a great buzz around the place over Christmas. We trained on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day and you could sense the enthusiasm and excitement. It’s not often you’re in this position at this time of year.
“Other clubs around Tyrone have been wishing us well and that’s been much appreciated. Galbally are still involved as well so it’s a good time for Tyrone football.”
Stewartstown reached an All-Ireland Junior Championship final back in 2004, falling short against a Finuge side backboned by former Kerry stars Éamonn Fitzmaurice and Paul Galvin.
That game was played in Portlaoise as Croke Park was out of commission, but the Harps will have the opportunity to grace Headquarters if they qualify for this year’s showdown.
“I remember it well,” said Lowe. “We headed down to Portlaoise, Paul Galvin nearly beat us on his own that day, he scored 1-7. They were unlucky not to have the opportunity to play at Croke Park.
“If we win our semi-final we’ll get to play to Croke Park which would be deadly as it’s everyone’s dream to play there, but we have to get over this hurdle first.”
Lowe was in top form in their victory over Glasgow Gaels in the ‘Twinning Final’ (for all intents and purposes an All-Ireland quarter-final clash), weighing in with 2-2 on a bitterly cold December’s day. It was a memorable weekend – barring some travel disruption.
“There were a lot of delayed and cancelled flights due to the weather, and our flight out of Dublin was delayed by four hours. We eventually got over there on the Saturday night, we were lucky enough and the hotel was nice. It was a good experience on the whole, getting to play on a 4G pitch was something different as well.
“A lot of supporters travelled over as well which was brilliant. When we were in the hotel a lot of supporters came in and wished us well, it’s nice to have that kind of backing.”
Their performance against Glasgow was fairly mixed– they trailed at one point in the first-half – but they knuckled down and eventually emerged with a 2-10 to 2-5 victory with Lowe the stand-out performer up front. It was a potential banana skin navigated, and that was the main thing.
“We didn’t underestimate them at all, they’re a very good side. We probably just didn’t really perform on the day and we were lucky enough in the end up. It was a good experience, something different, and now we’re just looking forward to the next one.”
Whatever happens, it’s been a richly memorable season for the Harps. They went the entirety of the 2022 season unbeaten, winning a league and championship double in Tyrone before claiming provincial honours in dramatic fashion against Drumlane. Glory on the national stage would be the cherry on top.
“It’s been brilliant, we’ve had some journey this year and we’re just hoping it continues. It’d be great to get to an All-Ireland final, everyone’s looking forward to the semi-final and we’re ready to go.”