THERE are few people who know Tyrone hurling better than Gary McGettigan.
The genial giant is a native of Strabane but has been living in Doneyloop for over a decade.
He hurled with Strabane Shamrocks for many years, winning junior county titles after reaching the club’s only county final in 2004, when they were beaten by Setanta’s Ulster intermediate final (tomorrow) opponents Eire Óg of Carrickmore.
McGettigan also hurled with Tyrone seniors for the best part of a decade before taking up with the Donegal side around the same time as he made his home in Doneyloop.
Since then he has been an ever- present figure in the background and his son Conor (25) has cemented a place at corner-back following a serious injury to Ruairi McLaughlin.
McGettigan’s role with the Donegal champs is probably even more vital on the line this year as both managers, Niall Cleary and Kevin Campbell, are on the field of play.
“Around 2015-16 I was living in Doneyloop, where I built a house, and there was no team in Strabane so a few of us hooked up with Setanta.,’’ he explains.
“Gerard Gilmore, who is from Strabane as well, and has a Lory Meagher and a Nickey Rackard Cup medal with Tyrone came later and he has made a big impact.
“Ciaran O’Neill, who is still involved with Setanta came from Strabane with me, Ciaran Bellew who was the goalie, Mark Kane was in goals too and there is only Ciaran and myself of that group still involved.”
McGettigan was involved with Tyrone when they beat Fermanagh in the Lory Meagher Cup final in 2012, while Gilmore – a major figure for Setanta this season with his accuracy from frees – was involved in the 2014 Nickey Rackard win.
That accuracy was tested by a tricky crosswind in the semi-final win over Middletown, a game in which Setanta were slow out of the blocks. It had been the same story against Ballinascreen in the previous round and McGettigan is keen to avoid a repeat of that.
“It is not intentional, and it is a dangerous game to play, and we spoke about it before the Middletown game and the same thing happened again,’’ he says.
“It is very important that we don’t let Carrickmore get a start like that as they have the power to put you away. We can’t give teams a four to five point start.
“We watched the first half of their game against Creggan as they were on before us and Sean Óg Grogan got four goals in the first half, so he is a serious threat.
“Johnny and Cormac Munroe are serious dual players and footballers are sometimes better conditioned than hurlers so they will bring that bit extra to the battle.
“Bryan McGurk, Oisin Daly, Ruairi Slane and their half back-line of Dermot Begley and Conor Grogan are also quite formidable.
“They are a big physical team as well. We know we are in for a serious battle on Saturday but Niall and Kevy have the boys in great shape physically and mentally.
“They are as fit as any Setanta team has ever been and are very well coached.