Marty McGrath’s auntie is the ‘Queen of the Silver Dollar’ herself, Philomena Begley, but does this also qualify him to play for Tyrone?
That was one of the questions being asked after the Fermanagh All-Star became an All Ireland winner too with the Red Hands at the weekend.
On Saturday, McGrath helped Tyrone win back-to-back All-Ireland Masters titles for the first time in the county’s history at Ballinagh, Cavan, when they defeated Dublin 0-13 to 1-09 after extra time.
McGrath, who turned 41 years old the following day, put in an immense performance at midfield despite playing for Ederney the night before in the Fermanagh Senior Football Championship against Enniskillen Gaels.
Before local supporters start shouting ‘Judas!’ from the terraces though, there is a reason for his sudden change of allegiance: Fermanagh doesn’t have a Masters team.
“Fermanagh hasn’t got a Masters side, so a player can play for a neighbouring county and that’s why Marty’s playing for Tyrone this year.
You can bring in three or four to play from another county,” said former Ederney native, Joe Leonard, who is part of the Tyrone Masters management team.
“Fermanagh had a team playing in it but pulled out when they couldn’t get enough players. We’re trying to get other counties to come in and play. Hopefully, Marty playing will encourage a few others to get their boots back on in Fermanagh.”
A member of Ederney’s 1968 senior championship-winning team and a founding member of Castlederg St Eugene’s GAA club, Leonard has been involved in Masters football within Tyrone for the past 33 years and is part of the current management setup along with sons, Damian and Kieran, and former Tyrone star Eugene Bradley.
“I managed Ederney for a good while and managed Marty too. I’ve known Marty for a long time, so I had a word with him about playing. He’s been one of our main men this year,” he said.
Not that Leonard has completely lost his Fermanagh roots.
“I still go to Ederney games and I was in Brewster Park last Friday night to see them play the Gaels in the championship. I’ll be going up to Ederney this Saturday evening to see them play against Kinawley as well,” he said.
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