Twelve years ago a 22 year old John Irvine ran out at Lisnaskea with the number six on his back about to face an Enniskillen Gaels team in his first Championship Final. Little did he know that it would take him another 12 years to finally get another chance.

That final in ‘06 may have came a bit too soon for Irvine and his Ederney teammates, but when he takes to Brewster Park on Sunday, he is hoping for a different outcome. But the tough defender is making no excuse for the lengthy absence.

“I suppose when you take a look at it we weren’t there because we probably didn’t deserve to be there, for various different reasons,” he said. “It takes a lot to get there when you are dealing with a smaller squad compared to a lot of other clubs. There’s a lot of clubs that haven’t been in it in those 12 years so we can’t really complain.

“Looking back the mix of the team was different. We were very young. We were probably a bit like rabbits caught in the headlights. We probably didn’t do ourselves justice because we didn’t start well. The game was largely over at half time. Enniskillen were a more seasoned, better rounded team. They got off to a better start closed us out and we made no inroads into them at all to pull them back.”

Standing in his team’s way on Sunday is the team currently dominating Fermanagh football, Derrygonnelly. Unbeaten in this year’s league and going for four in a row, the Harps have been the benchmark in the county for the last number of years.

And Irvine knows that a repeat of ‘06 cannot happen if Ederney are to stand a chance.

“We’ll obviously target to start well. If you are not in games at half time you are seldom in a position to win them and we weren’t in that position in ‘06.

“We have to start well and then it’s like any other game. We have to be more efficient. We have got to work harder, be better organised. The variables are all there you just have to be better at doing them.

“You’ll know how they will play, you know their main men but curbing it is another thing. They are well versed in what they do. They are the team to beat. They really are the benchmark and their records stand up for itself.”

With eight players from 2006 still involved in the squad this year, Irvine paid tribute to those players who have stuck it out and with the youth making their mark, he believes there is a better mix than 12 years ago.

“I’d say we are more balanced we have a better mix of age. A lot of our younger boys have played at a high level. Conor McGee, Sean Cassidy have had big experiences. They maybe young but they have more experience and played at higher levels and have a bit more about them in regards to experience.”

In regards to the players who have been there since 2006 Irvine said: “It a good testament to the boys that stayed about. There’s 12 years and no big days. We won a league title in between and that helped but 12 years is a long time. There is a lot of training done and a lot of travelling done in that time.”

In their run to final Ederney have racked up big scores but periods after half time have let teams back into the games when they should have been dead and buried but for John he knows you have to weather the storm.

“Any team will have a purple patch and when playing championship football its all about riding the storm.

“There’s no panic. You stick to the gameplan. You don’t get it all your own way in championship football.

“We have played in fits and starts. We haven’t got to the level we know we can play. And Derrygonnely are going to be another level higher. You be looking forward to it because its something that doesn’t come around too often for us.”

But while Irvine and his teammates are caught in the bubble of preparing for a Championship final, he knows that his hometown has had to deal with tragedy this year with the untimely deaths of Barry McQuaid and Conal McAleer.

“We are trying to do our best trying to play football. But in real life this is what really matters and if this run has helped take anybody’s mind off it or cheer anybody up it’s worth it.”

Come Sunday, the only thing guaranteed to keep Ederney people happy is the New York Cup on its way to the village for the first time in 50 years.