By Damien Donnelly
STEWARTSTOWN are keeping collective feet firmly on the ground following a clear-cut Ulster Junior Club Championship quarter-final win by channelling their focus on the upcoming last-four clash with Donegal representatives Letterkenny Gaels at Owenbeg.
An impressive first round victory (2-20 to 0-5) over Teconnaught of Down in Newry was pleasing to joint-managers Blake Smyth and Peter Armour, who both wore the Harps colours with distinction as players.
As soon as that assignment was done and dusted, though, there was more than a close eye swiftly trained on Letterkenny’s last eight tie with Derrynoose 24 hours later at Crossmaglen to see who would supply Stewartstown’s semi-final opponents. Smyth feels that the Donegal team showed toughness to come through a tight test:
‘”Letterkenny won by a single point (1-13 to 1-12) and they had to dig deep to get over the line. Any day you play a Donegal team is a challenge, so we’ll be doing plenty of preparation for the Ulster semi-final.
‘”We were happy with our own team’s display against Teconnaught. The lads made a bright start and maintained a strong hold on the match. It was good to get Ulster up and running with a victory but the next round comes round pretty quickly and that is our full focus from after the quarter-finals.”
Stewartstown’s last-four tie with Letterkenny is scheduled for Sunday as the Harps bid to continue what has already been a productive campaign thus far.
They only dropped one point en route to claiming the Division Three league crown when coming from nine points down to draw at Drumragh. The Harps subsequently clinched the championship as well with victory over Aghaloo in the final by a two-goal margin.
Smyth and Armour took hold of the management reins for the start of the 2022 season. The switch to management of the first team represented fresh ground to a considerable extent but maybe it wasn’t the giant leap one might think, as Smyth explained.
“We would have experienced management in other aspects of the club and I know many of the present senior players from helping to manage u-16, minor and u-21 sides. The two of us are recent players with the senior squad and we actually were involved as subs in this season’s reserve championship final, so the link with playing and management is still there to that degree.
“Winning the Tyrone double plus promotion leaves us in bonus territory but the Ulster Club Championship is a competition we want to do well in. It started in fine fashion at the weekend but a semi-final with Letterkenny is another challenging hurdle for us to try and get over.
“This year’s junior league and championship competitions in Tyrone proved really competitive. We were involved in several close games along the way against Strabane, Aghaloo, Drumragh, Drumquin and others. Those ties will hopefully continue to help us in terms of the Ulster exchanges as we face into the semi-final.”