OCTOBER 2018 and an air of uncertainty surrounds the Clontibret club.
John McEntee’s side have two games left in the league and are sitting in the relegation zone. Stay there and intermediate football would be on the menu for this Oriel heavyweight in 2019.
Instead the side earned wins against Ballybay and Castleblayney, and with Magheracloone losing by two points to Inniskeen they were able to preserve their senior status – just.
October 2019. Just five league defeats in 18 games secures a league semi-final fixture against Carrickmacross.
More importantly, they are back in a Senior Championship final with Scotsotwn standing in their way.
“It’s been a big turnaround,” said Clontibret captain Brian Greenan on their transformation this season.
“We set our stall out at the start of the year, we said we weren’t going to be in that position again.
“We got an awful lot of men back, the Savages and different men are back. That means there has been a lot more boys at training and that has brought a buzz to things, we have been able to do a more things in training.
“We have seen that paying off on match day and thankfully results have been better.”
Greenan also believes that the addition of Mick O’Dowd, who managed the side to back-to-back successes in 2006 and ’07, to McEntee’s backroom team has really added an extra kick this year – especially when it comes to attacking play.
“John is a very good manager and we have learned a lot from him.
“Last year he had John Paul (Mone) and Padraig (McGuigan). This year we have Mick O’Dowd in as well and that has added an awful lot to the whole thing.
“John has taught us a lot about going forward and attacking in particular. We’ve always had a very decent backline and it’s been the forward play we have needed to work on.
“Himself and Mick have been working very hard on that and we have been able to get enough scores on the board to get this far.”
It has been an interesting campaign for the O’Neill’s. They started with a thriller against Carrick with Clontibret progressing after a penalty shoot-out.
It was equally as tense the next day as they defeated Ballybay on a 0-13 to 0-12 scoreline with Conor McManus and Francis Hughes proving prolific.
A semi-final with Latton followed and true to form, it went from whistle to whistle with Greenan needing to kick an insurance score to secure a 1-10 to 0-11 victory.
“We seem to play Latton every year in the championship, it’s a fixture that always seems to come up,” said Greenan.
“It’s never more than two or three points either way between the sides.
“I think we beat them by three points last year and we had been well ahead and they came back right at us.
“It was the same this year. We were going well then Killian (Lavelle) got sent off and they pulled it back. We did eventually get over the line and we were very relieved to get back to the final.”
Lavelle’s dismissal was the result of two yellow cards so he will be available for selection.