Moortown make return to Ulster stage hoping to rekindle past glories
IT'S almost three decades since Moortown footballers set out from their loughshore base to test themselves against Ulster's finest.
Senior champions in 1992, a formidable side containing county stars Paul Devlin and the Lawn twins, Chris and Stephen, were kings of Tyrone.
Those glory days have faded into distant memory, giving way to leaner times and many soul-searching Sunday afternoons.
Relegation was a more common theme than success, but the St Malachy's are back in senior football, with an exciting new wave of talented players.
They return to the provincial arena in Sunday's Ulster Club IFC clash with Erne Gaels of Fermanagh, looking to build on the county title that has reinvigorated the club and its people.
“It's good for the younger lads to get a wee taste of success early on. We never had that when we were younger,” said veteran full forward Peter Devlin, whose father James captained the 1992 title-winning side.
“You see the younger people around here, they see that wee taste of success, and we haven't had that in a long time.”
Devlin, at 32 now the team's elder statesman, has experienced many of those bleak times, and a 14-year wait since the club's last appearance in a Tyrone IFC final at times looked set to continue for an eternity.
“Those 14 years were tough, but at the end of the day, it's a game of football and it's just there to be enjoyed.”
Now he's targeting an extended run in the Ulster series as a solid grounding for a return to the ultra-competitive world of senior football in Tyrone.
“It will be a big winter for the lads, to try and get themselves into the proper shape.
“Hopefully we can establish ourselves in Division One, because that's what we are, we're a Division One club.
“I think we're definitely equipped for it. With the youth we have, there's two boys in midfield, Tarlach (Quinn) is 20 and Blaine (Ryan) is 18.
“There's a scatter of us boys who are over 30, but a mountain of cubs there ready to go at any point.
“The club has just been sailing along in mid-table in Division Two, and it's nice to push up and get out of there.”
Devlin's impact up front has been a key factor in Moortown's success this season.
A towering presence with exceptional ball-winning qualities and an accurate finisher from play and as the team's chief place-kicker, he finished as his team's top scorer, and second only to Tyrone star Cathal McShane in the overall IFC standings.
“The lads out the field made it really easy, they were sending quality ball in, so my job is easy in there when they're doing that,” Devlin insisted.
Sunday's clash with the Belleek men at Carrickmore comes as an unlikely extension to a season that started badly and appeared to be careering towards a crisis.
“We won two out our first seven league games and we badly needed to get a couple of wins.
“But when Tyrone won the All-Ireland we got a break, and after that we have lost one out of nine games, against Greencastle. I got sent off that day, so that was the reason we got beat there.
“We have been on a deadly run of form, and that momentum has carried on.”