ADRIAN Nugent’s Rock can sign off a glorious period in their club’s history as they bid for a first-ever All-Ireland title in tomorrow’s Junior Club decider at Croke Park against Kerry outfit Glenbeigh-Glencar.
While it’s been a vintage season by any standards – they clinched county and provincial championship honours for the third time in a decade – a national crown has so far proven elusive for the remote east Tyrone club.
The stakes are higher still considering this may be the last chance of ultimate honours for a slew of players who bridge the gap with St Patrick’s only other All-Ireland appearance back in 2008 – former Tyrone star Ciaran Gourley, captain Tommy Bloomer and veteran defender Aidan Girvan to name but a few.
Their manager Adrian Nugent says his charges are also determined to put right the wrongs of their disappointing All-Ireland semi-final defeat to another Kerry side, Brosna, two years ago.
He said: “Having lost in the All-Ireland final and the hurt of losing to Brosna, they feel as if they left something behind them. Again you use those things to your advantage. The boys are very realistic, they might never get here again.
“It’s an unbelievable opportunity in one respect. I’ve a son [Liam] who’s now breaking onto the team, he got on the last day in the semi-final. When you get your opportunity to manage your own team and son it’s fantastic.”
The Pomeroy native has managed at every conceivable level at the Rock and was handed the senior reins in 2016. He has been particularly awed by the commitment of decorated former Tyrone defender Ciaran Gourley, who recovered from a serious injury to play a starring role in his club’s championship run.
“Ciaran has been excellent all year, if you look back at the Blackhill and Newtownbutler games in Ulster, games when we needed leaders, he stood up to that plate.
“He’s a leader in every sense, in the changing room, around the place, he’s not only a player but he’s the youth officer for the club too.”
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