I have a couple of friends in Aghyaran whom I meet at various football pitches all over the country. These fervent supporters have been telling me for years that Marty Penrose is the best forward in Tyrone. Now I would not for one moment dare to disagree with them but there are others in the press who remain to be convinced.
Take for example last year’s Irish News Awards and the choice of Ulster Player of The Year. In my view, and the view of my border based friends, the clear winner was Martin Penrose. Unfortunately the buzzing corner forward was pipped by someone from County Down. In no way do I want to diminish the achievements of the winner but there was no other player in Ulster who performed as well or as consistently in last year’s Ulster championship as the Tyrone corner forward.
The Aghyaran man was always a very good footballer, a great target man and score getter for his club and a real handful for any defender in club matches. However when he first played for the county his over reliance on his left foot sometimes curtailed his effectiveness at that level. Fortunately Marty is a player who is keen to achieve and to develop and when you watch him play for Tyrone now you see a much more complete player who offers much more than the traditional pace and movement of a nippy corner forward.
He has developed a great physique and combined with his hunger and willingness to work hard he has become a manager’s dream. He has worked tremendously hard on his game, particularly his free taking and tackling and the number of vital turnovers and scores that result from his play are often the difference between winning and losing matches. He showed against Donegal just how important a player he has become for Tyrone and I, along with my friends from Aghyaran, are expecting him to once again have a very good inter county season. We are also expecting other journalists to pay more attention to his performances and to give the man the credit, and possibly the awards, he deserves.