Dromintee’s McBennett hoping for another first

By Niall McCoy

THE Dromintee team that takes to the pitch in Dromore this weekend has already provided the south Armagh club with a list of firsts over the years – and goalkeeper James McBennett is determined to deliver one more gift just in time for Christmas.

The first St Patrick’s side to win an All-Ireland Féile title, the first male Dromintee team to compete in Ulster and, after last weekend’s win over Carryduff, the first to reach a provincial final as they prepare for the Paul McGirr decider.

Now Tyrone powerhouse Errigál Ciaran stand in their way of a first Ulster title on Saturday, and the Armagh minor, who has been hit with quad issues in recent weeks, is really enjoying the occasion.

“There’s a massive buzz about the club and to know that your team is a part of that feeling is special,” said McBennett who, despite preparing for a second season with Armagh minors, only turned 16 on Tuesday.

“We’re just hoping we can deliver on Saturday.”

The 0-11 to 0-3 semi-final win over Down champions Carryduff may have looked comfortable on paper, but there was little between the sides in the first half as they shared six points in the rain at Gardrum Park.

Aidan O’Rourke, Kevin Toale and Stephen Dyas’ side did improve considerably after the interval though, hitting eight points without reply.

However, the error count was still high, especially when it came to finishing gilt-edged goal chances, and McBennett knows that a repeat will not be enough against a club with 10 senior titles to their name while Dromintee are still awaiting their first.

“Our poor performance in the first half owed in part to the disruption in our preparations; we had boys struggling with injuries and boys away playing with their school teams and county squads.

“Obviously though, our decision-making and basic skills were nowhere near good enough in the first half and arguably not good enough in the second half either.

“We have standards that we set and we didn’t meet them in either half. They have to be raised for Errigál Ciaran.

“They have such a huge reputation, producing names like the Canavans and the McGinleys. Winning is a culture in that club.”

Philly McEvoy has been an influence on James McBennett’s career

While Dromintee can only look on in envy at the records held by their opponents, this particular team is breaking new ground and have won every cup available to them all the way up.

The rangy McBennett has been instrumental in that success with precision restarts and a real comfort on the ball; skills also demonstrated by the deputising Calvin Mooney in the semi-final.

A glutton for improvement, he cites Donegal’s current goalkeeper Shaun Patton and Armagh’s former number one Philly McEvoy as influential figures on his career to date.

“On the inter-county scene, Shaun Patton would definitely be a player I’d look up to,” McBennett said.

“It’s just the way he has modernised the position, along with the likes or Rory Beggan and Niall Morgan. I wouldn’t come up the field as much as Niall or Rory so Shaun Patton would be a player I’d look up to.

“Also Philip McEvoy in the club here; he’s helped me develop from I was about eight or nine, and it’s not just me, he’s helped all the other boys over the years too.”

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