They struck a deal with local farm/industrial equipment dealers Ryall's of Watergrasshill and duly took delivery of their first new tractor, a 2004-plated MTX 140, a model that still plays an active role in the business.
It has clocked up 12,000 hours, and is on its third set of replacement tyres, without ever having had a spanner put to it, except for routine maintenance and general minor repairs.
The comfort and reliability of the McCormick was an instant hit on the long journeys around the Rebel County, and a particular point that came in for praise was the ability of the MTX to keep both the engine and rear end cool on long road trips. "I was fond of the TM series New Holland, and they served us well, but after a long journey you could fry an egg on the rear end," explained Jerry Fitzgerald.
So impressed were the Fitzgeralds with the performance of the first MTX 140, and the back-up from Ryall's, that they gradually phased out the New Hollands over the next number of years.
The fleet now consists entirely of McCormicks and still contains the original MTX 140, although that has been retired to lighter duties and now tends to leisurely tasks such as raking and powering a beet harvester.
McCormick tractors were built in Doncaster until late 2007, at which point manufacturing was relocated to Fabbrico, Italy, to the main Landini manufacturing plant.
Mr Fitzgerald operates tractors originating from both plants and finds that the quality has only increased following the relocation.
McCormick tractors underwent a heavy redesign in 2013, and Mr Fitzgerald became the first Irish owner of the new line-up in May 2014 - a brand-new X7.660.
Powered by a six-cylinder Betapower engine offering up to 180HP under boost, it runs a set of double Claas mowers at its ease during silage operations.
Both Carrera independent front axle and cab suspension ensure the air-conditioned cabin is a comfortable place to spend the day, reducing operator fatigue, alongside the obvious benefits of reduced stress transmission through the chassis of the tractor on rough and undulating roads.
Equipped with a 24-speed German-built ZF transmission, in six ranges and four power shifts per range, the tractor has proven equally adept at field operations as road haulage.
Impressed with the flawless performance of his first X7, Mr Fitzgerald recently took delivery of a new X7.650, offering 160HP.
"McCormick offer a nimble yet powerful tractor - pro- viding the perfect solution to the needs of our business," he explained.
While the quality and reliability of the tractors alone would have been reason enough to keep Mr Fitzgerald loyal to the Italian workhorses, he also speaks highly of his afore- mentioned dealer, Ryall's.
"Back-up and after-sales service is second to none; there's always someone at the other end of the phone," he said.
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