Devlin recalls the glory days of ’92

By Niall Gartland

MOORTOWN’S run to the brink of Ulster Intermediate glory has surely conjured up memories of their glory days among the older members of the Loughshore club.

Their record in the Tyrone Senior Championship is remarkable for a club of their size, and the last man from the club to hoist the O’Neill Cup was James Devlin all the way back in 1992.

He’s enjoying their run to the final – especially as they’re playing an attractive brand of football – and we’ve spoken to him about his memories of their 1992 success.

Perhaps the first thing to mention is that it was by no means inevitable at the time – they were trounced by Coalisland on a scoreline of 3-9 to 0-1 in the previous year’s championship, and it’s fair to say it was a valuable lesson for the side.

Devlin was in the twilight of his career at that stage, but a crop of talented youngsters (among them the likes of Stephen and Chris Lawn, Paul Devlin, Damian Hagan and Conrad Quinn) were determined to make their mark in the highest echelons of Tyrone football.

Devlin said: “We went down to Division Two in 1989 but I remember Art McRory coming onto the field to me and saying ‘James, I like the way that team plays football, there’s something about them. Stay another lock of years and try to get them over the line.’ There were seven or eight good footballers coming through at the one time.”

Managed by Bellaghy legend Chris Brown, they claimed a morale-boosting victory over a gilded Trillick team in the first round of the championship in 1992. Devlin also recalls that it sent a “message” to the rest of the county.

“We gave Trillick a real beating, they were one of the big teams at that time. They were probably coming to the end of their cycle, but it really set us up nicely. I remember Chris Brown said to us in the changing room afterwards, ‘that’s our wee message to the rest of Tyrone’, that we’re the team to beat.”

A quarter-final win over Clonoe, another traditional power, set up a semi-final clash against Carrickmore. Carmen were favourites heading into the game, but Devlin won a late free which was converted by Martin Quinn to set up a replay, which St Malachy’s won by 0-10 to 1-5.

“Those were tough, tough games, absolutely brutal”, said Devlin. “I remember that drawn game, we couldn’t break their defence, so when I got the the ball I just ran straight into the crowd. I was pulled down, it was 30 or 40 yards out, but ‘Cokey’ was a good free-taker and put it over the bar.”

The final was a bit of an anti-climax by comparison as they did the business against a Dromore side which at that point had never won a Senior Championship title. Devlin has happy memories of the post-match celebrations back at the club.

“The atmosphere was unbelievable, we came down in a bus to Lavery’s corner to get a drink and that was at 7pm, I made it into Lavery’s about 9.30pm.

“Everyone wanted to talk to you and everyone wanted a photo, the atmosphere was unbelievable.

“I remember all the old guys, the likes of Joe Crozier, John Joe Kelly, all great footballers with two or three championship medals, they were all there.”

While he cherishes his medal, it is a source of disappointment that they came out second best in finals against Errigal Ciaran (1993) and Carrickmore (1995).

“We were beaten by a point by Errigal in the following year’s final and I actually thought we’d a better team that day. We missed maybe five handy frees and I’m not exaggerating. We probably could’ve stopped that Errigal team from taking off if we’d beaten them. It was sore on us, of all the defeats in my life, it still irks me greatly.”

But nonetheless a lot of water has passed under the bridge and he’s now hoping their current crop of players come up trumps in this weekend’s Ulster Intermediate final against Derry side Steelstown.

“I’ve enjoyed watching them surely, they’re playing a good brand of football. I think they’re enjoying it as well, the lads seem to have a good bond, they’re gelling well together so let’s hope they can get across the line and bring the title back to Moortown.”

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