It has been a stop start year for Belnaleck’s combative midfielder Duwayne McNulty. Injury during the early part of the year meant he was playing catch up when the new season started but once championship came calling he had cemented his place at the heart of the middle third again.

And what a championship it was. For the first time in 44 years Belnaleck lifted the Fermanagh Intermediate Championship. This victory came just 12 months after winning the Junior Championship; a success McNulty was captain for. In between was a trip to the Ulster Junior Final which ended in heartache, but it is fair to say that it has been an incredible journey for the Art MacMurroughs.

“I suppose to win back to back championships at two different levels is something special,” McNulty stated.

“It is not something that is done too often. Winning the Junior championship after losing in two finals was special and to back that up with an intermediate championship showed that we are serious about trying to progress and get better,” the big midfielder explained.

This weekend McNulty and his team-mates will enter the Ulster arena with a difficult away trip to Derry champions, Banagher, who are heavy favourites to progress to the next round. They dropped down from senior last season for the first time in a long number of years and were expected to bounce straight back to the top tier, and they didn’t disappoint:

“They are a good team. We have had a look at them and they can play football there is no doubt about that and we will have to be ready to produce our best. But I think we can do that and if we can do it for the full hour we will be there or thereabouts in the last ten minutes.”

Banagher have several players with county experience with the most obvious name that jumps off the team sheet being that of Mark Lynch. Lynch operates around the middle of the field so it is likely that he and McNulty will cross paths on more than one occasion this Saturday.

“He is obviously a very good player, but we can’t be getting caught up in the notion that they are a one-man team, they are far from it. They have ability all over the pitch but I think to be fair we have a fair bit of quality too,” McNulty observed.

Belnaleck are peppered with county experience themselves although they will be without the services of Ciaran McBrien, who underwent an operation shortly after their victory over Irvinestown in the county final.

“Ciaran is out and he will be a loss for us. But there is nothing we can do about that and I think this year more than any other we have real strength in depth. We have the county fellas but we also have a lot of younger players who have come in to the team and they have been a huge boost. They have not only made a positive impact on the field but they have also pushed the rest of us on,” McNulty said.

It is clear that the Belnaleck man has plenty of confidence in his own team while having a healthy respect for the opposition. Lasts season in the Ulster Junior Championship Belnaleck saw off Doire Trasna to book a place in the final.

McNulty and Belnaleck will be hoping for a similar result this weekend.