By Niall Gartland
HAVING represented the club at senior level with distinction for nearly two decades, Coalisland veteran Stephen McNally says that he is “99 per cent” sure that he has hung up the boots for the final time following his side’s Division One-salvaging victory over the Moy last Sunday.
If indeed he does formally retire from playing duties, Sunday’s deserved play-off victory when the stakes were at their highest was a fitting way for one of the greats of Tyrone club football to bow out.
McNally has been admired across the county of Tyrone and beyond for his unyielding commitment to his beloved Coalisland since making his senior debut in the mid-noughties.
But he wasn’t just a dedicated servant with the club – he was a tremendously versatile footballer who produced the goods in the heat of battle week after week and year after year.
Speaking in the wake of Sunday’s thoroughly deserved 2-10 to 1-7 victory over the Moy, McNally explained why it might be time to call it a day.
“It’s looking like I’ll retire. Coalisland is in a rebuilding process and I think it might be time for the young lads to come through and get that experience of playing competitive football. I’ve been lucky I’ve played my entire career in Division One since I came on the scene around 2004 or 2005.
“I’ve a wee daughter now, Amelia, and I want to go and spend a bit of time with her as well, I want to see her grow up and be there for that. I’ll never say never but I’d say retirement is 99 per cent likely at this stage.”
McNally can reflect with pride on a memorable playing career which saw him win Tyrone Senior Championship medals in 2010 and 2018. There have been some tough days at the office as well, but he knows he’s been fortunate on the whole.
“I was lucky to be successful enough at youth level and we’d some great days with the club at senior as well. It was a bit of a mix really, there were some dark times too but that’s football.
“It’s difficult for lads to walk away and retire when they haven’t really won anything, but I suppose the older lads on the Coalisland team can look forward to having those medals to talk about in years to come, to share that with their families.”
It hasn’t been the most straightforward of seasons for Na Fianna and their top flight status, which stretches all the way back to the mid-eighties, looked in real jeopardy heading into the play-offs. They pulled it out of the bag with victories over Moortown and the Moy and they’ll look ahead to another season of Division One football in 2024.
“It’s massive for us to stay in senior football, there’s a lot of teams pushing hard to get there.
“The year didn’t really go according to plan, we didn’t want to end up in this position in the first place but we had to suck it up.
“It was difficult preparing for the Moy game as most teams had wrapped up for the year, but we managed to get a few friendlies and that really stood to us, you could see the fitness levels were good.
“It’s great to stay in senior level for another year, the lads didn’t drop the heads after a difficult season and we’re glad we kept it at and got our reward.”