By Michael McMullan
MOORTOWN may only be in their fourth season of adult ladies football, but they are now 60 minutes away from a place in the Ulster intermediate final.
Last year’s beaten Ulster junior finalists came out on the right side of an extra-time battle with Monaghan champions Corduff and now face Derrygonnelly for a place in the decider.
“It was probably the hardest game we have had to date ever and mentally was well,” said captain Chrissie Devlin, whose sister Sarah scored the only point in extra time of their 1-11 to 2-7 win.
“It was the sort of game that could’ve gone either way. We thought we had it won in normal time and they got an equaliser.”
With players exhausted and cramp creeping in, it was the perfect example of the well-used phrase getting over the line. The finish line was in sight when Chrissie and a Corduff player clashed and the Farney side were awarded indirect free.
“There were panic stations, but they couldn’t score from it,” Devlin recalled. “Basically everyone got back so they couldn’t work it short and thankfully we got the ball out before he blew it up.
“Everybody was ecstatic and it felt better than when we won the championship, it was so hard fought the girls were glad it wasn’t over.”
Extending their season for another week with the chance to challenge for an Ulster title is another chapter in the amazing Moortown story.
The club fielded their first senior team in 2019 and won the Junior B title 12 months later. Last year saw them crowned as Junior champions in a season that ended with a cruel Ulster final defeat with Carrickmacross winning the title with the last kick of the game.
“We never thought we’d be back in an Ulster competition, never mind intermediate,” she added.
After a couple of games in their Tyrone intermediate season, Moortown realised they had a team capable of backing up their 2021 success.
A defeat to Omagh was their only defeat in the season and it was a game Moortown didn’t need to win, having already booked their league semi-final spot.
Now, with the league and championship double secured, they have the chance to make more memories.
There is no time to rest on the laurels, with their clash with Derrygonnelly a fifth game in as many weeks and you can sense the excitement in Chrissie Devlin’s voice. Sport is great and their finals makes all the hard work worthwhile.
“We realised we were good enough and there was nothing to be scared of,” she said of the light bulb moment when they realised they weren’t there to make up the numbers at intermediate level.
After beginning with a mixture of players coming out of retirement and girls never having kicked a ball, Moortown’s underage system has helped build a team that can stand the test of time.
Some of the early graduates were central to their Junior B win with another half-dozen players coming into the side the following year to help their squad grow.
“We had a couple more coming though this year and the ones who started a few years ago are now better…half our team are minors and three are still u-16,” Devlin said.
With the club’s men retaining their Division One status this season, after winning the Intermediate Championship in 2021, both teams are poised for a season at the top flight.
It’s exciting times ahead and Derrygonnelly stand in their way of another Ulster final spot, a team that included All-Ireland Junior of the year Eimear Smyth who scored 3-6 in their win over Bredagh B in the quarter-finals.
“We’ll have to look at them and get our homework done, but you can concentrate too much on the other team so we also have to work on ourselves,” Devlin said ahead of Sunday’s trip to Derrygonnelly.