THE KNIVES ARE OUT: Fellow butchers Sean Rooney and Daniel McGullion in Rooney's Butchers in Ballyshannon PICTURE: THOMAS GALLAGHER
Donegal shares a portion of its border with Sunday’s Ulster Footbal final rivals Fermanagh and on both sides of that divide there are families nailing their Donegal or Fermanagh colours to the mast this week.
Mention the name McGrath and you won't know if you’re in Pettigo or Ederney. Most of them originated in Pettigo, but they have spilled across the imaginary line that was given the name ‘border’.
Former Fermanagh All-Star Marty McGrath is a good example as his father was a native of Lettercran, Pettigo, just across the border from Ederney in Co. Fermanagh.
The McGraths of Ederney are a famous bunch, not forgetting Geraldine, who was better known as Geraldine Og in Ballyshannon. Conor McGee, a Fermanagh panellist from the St. Joseph’s Club in Ederney, is also the product of an ‘inter-county’ marriage as his mother is Kate Shallow from Pettigo.
The McGoldricks from Pettigo have welcomed some of the Fermanagh clan into the family . . . the list goes on and on.
Down the road in Belleek there is no missing the Fermanagh flags and bunting. A brief spin through the town on Saturday last saw fans from both counties out in force, popular pubs such as the Black Cat Cove and more very definitely supporting Rory Gallagher’s team.
The family rivalries are typified by brothers Maurice and Liam McLaughlin (pictured above on the actual line of the border with Belleek Pottery behing them PICTURE: THOMAS GALLAGHER)
Maurice, who runs Sean ógs bar in Ballyshannon, is very much supporting Donegal — although he has a unique claim to fame in that he was senior manager of both Erne Gaels in Belleek and Aodh Ruadh of Ballyshannon.
“I have lots of friends in Fermanagh and I loved my time managing Erne Gaels, but for me it has to be Donegal,” said Maurice.
His brother Liam is cheering loudly for Fermanagh, no surprise considering he played senior inter-county football with Fermanagh.
John and Maureen Travers (pictured above - CREDIT: THOMAS GALLAGHER) from the Donegal Road in Ballyshannon are in opposite camps.
Maureen (nee Gormley) wasn’t shy getting her Fermanagh flag out to support her beloved home county while John, a long serving club delegate on the Donegal GAA county board for Aodh Ruadh, is enjoying the craic, slagging all the Gormley sisters who “have dusted down their Fermanagh flags for the big day!”
In Rooney’s butchers, Daniel McGullion is taking lots of friendly abuse from customers, but the Belleek man was talking up his side’s chances on Saturday as he and Sean Rooney, proprietor of Rooney’s ‘squared up’ for some friendly banter.
“The knives are out,” joked Daniel, who said he was “loving the slagging”.On Tuesday night as the rain lashed down, proud Belleek native Pat Melly from Laughill was hosting her publican neighbour on The Port, Mick McGrath, who is chairman of the Donegal County Board. Pat, who has worked for decades in The Commercial Bar, now 'Pat's Bar' says she has been having “great craic” all week.
“I’m following Fermanagh since I was 12. I have great friendships with the teams and people in Garrison and Belleek who regularly come in here for a drink.
“We would love to win an Ulster title, that would be more than enough — for now. An Ulster would do for now,” she told the Democrat, with a glint in her eye.
Mick McGrath (pictured above with Pat Melly CREDIT: THOMAS GALLAGHER), who runs the nearby Bridgend Bar, said the last few weeks had been great fun on The Port. “Pat and myself get on great, plenty of slagging, but come Sunday evening we'll have a wee drink at some stage!
“24,500 tickets were sold by 6pm on Tuesday, so we all know how much interest there is in the game, it really is a special one,” he said.