If Eamon Ward wanted to prove to the people of Glenswilly that he’s one of them, he went the right way about it.
The Clontibret, Co Monaghan, native first appeared for the Foxhall club in their momentous 2011 season - when they lifted their first ever RTE Raidió na Gaeltachta SFC title following a 1-8 to 0-9 win over St Michael’s.
That night, bonfires led the cavalcade back to the clubhouse, which was bursting with well-wishers from the local community.
Ward, a vet at Donegal Animal Hospital in Letterkenny, took to the stage and sang ‘The Hills of Glenswilly.’
The song went down a treat and there’s been a few renditions since the club won a second county title last month and progressed on an enchanting journey to the AIB Ulster Club Championship final, where Ballinderry Shamrocks lie in wait this Sunday at Healy Park.
“It’s something I’d been working on and I picked up the words here and there,” Ward jokes of his first time on the stage.
Ward was initially coaxed into the Glenswilly set-up when he moved to the north-west in late 2010.
His first contact with Glenswilly was through Eileen Roarty, his boss’s wife, and Ward soon found himself sitting down with John McGinley, who was Glenswilly manager at the time.
“I had to leave Clontibret,” Ward explains. “The job is difficult in that you sort of have to be based around and it wouldn’t suit to travel for training and matches.
“There are a lot of unsociable hours.
“I met a lot of the Glenswilly people through the veterinary and farming side of things.
“I always got a good welcome in the homes around Glenswilly and the people have been very good to me here but I’d call myself a Glenswilly man now.”
Ward has helped stiffen up the Glenswilly backline. For a team known for its physical presence, it’s unusual in the fact most of Gary McDaid’s bigger players fill the more advanced roles.
Ward and Glenswilly were tested in the air continually by Roslea Shamrocks, in the Ulster semi-final last Sunday week.
In Seamus and Sean Quigley in particular, the Fermanagh champions continually went route one but Glenswilly won out 3-9 to 2-8.
“The high balls in from Roslea were relentless,” Ward says of Healy Park.
“The Quigleys are two fine footballers. They were very impressive during their own club championship and into Ulster. We kept them well enough under control and it was great to keep them to just two points from play.”
Glenswilly have plenty of support of their own but will also be cheered on by an enclave of Monaghan.
“They’ll be fully behind supporting us and a few of them are hoping to get up for the match,” Ward says of his local branch. Omagh isn’t too far away from Monaghan so hopefully there’ll be a wee crowd of them for it.”
And is all goes well, Ward could be back on stage on Sunday night.