Trillick v Dromore
Friday, Healy Park, 8.30pm
NIALL Gormley admits that for too long the Trillick vs Dromore rivalry had become one-sided in favour of the Blues.
Traditionally this is one of the marquee derby fixtures in Tyrone club football, with the latest chapter set to unfold in front of a bumper crowd at Healy Park on Friday evening in the first round of the Senior Championship.
However Gormley, who has represented the Reds with such distinction for almost two decades, is well aware that for much of that period Dromore were the dominant force.
“It is a big rivalry but on our side we have had no joy out of it until we beat them last year in a Starred game in the league.
“For a rivalry to build it has to be competitive and we are only getting competitive lately. That was our first win in something like fifteen years against them.”
The evergreen attacker, who is struggling to recover from a calf injury in time for this weekend’s glamour tie, appreciates the significance of the match for everyone associated with both clubs.
“For the supporters it is probably the most important game that there is. Both teams will know going into it that it is do or die. We are going to have to throw the whole thing at it, there is no point trying to save anything for the next day because that won’t arrive if you lose.
“You only worry about the next round if you get through it. I don’t think either team will be looking beyond next Friday night at this stage.”
Trillick have no shortage of experience and talent at their disposal these days, with the Donnelly and Brennan brothers spearheading their challenge for honours. Yet even with such stellar names to call upon, Niall states that the management have no qualms about drafting in raw recruits to the fold.
“Younger boys like Simon Garrity and Liam Gray have started games this year. Nigel (Seaney) is one of those managers who doesn’t want things to go stale and doesn’t want to stand still. He is happy enough to push young boys in and get them experience and give them a crack at the whip.
Moy v Clonoe
Saturday, Pomeroy, 6.15pm
IT has been a difficult year for Clonoe O’Rahilly with the sad passing of club stalwart Joe McCabe who was hugely respected throughout the club as well as across the county and province. Joe was involved in the formation of young players coming through the ranks of the club and they go into Saturday’s championship clash with Moy without his presence for the first time in living memory.
Shane Coney played his first game for the senior side in 1999 when he was 18. On Saturday he will line out again on the back line on against Moy in Pomeroy and hopes the Rahilly’s can recapture the glroy days of 2008 and 2013 when they won the O’Neill Cup.
Shane has a busy life as player and club secretary while also managing to squeeze in a famous victory on TG4’s Ireland’s fittest family when the Coneys (Mum Colette and brothers Shane, Gary and Paul) won the overall competition.
His focus however is very much on Saturday’s game with brothers Gary and Paul also in the squad.
Clonoe are within striking distance of a top four place in the league and recent form has been good.
He explained, “We have won our last three league games and given ourselves a change of a semi-final place. However we have four tough games ahead including Ardboe and our big rival the Fianna.
“We beat Moy in the league but that is no indicator when it comes to the championship. It means absolutely nothing as Saturday will be a totally different ball game and intensity. They have championship success in recent years and won the All Ireland Intermediate tile. That is a huge achievement. They have quality players and men with great experience like Colm Cavanagh and his brother Sean who is their player/manager and has done it all in Gaelic football.’
Killyclogher v Donaghmore
Saturday, Carrickmore, 2.45pm
THE gloom appears to be slowly lifting from over Killyclogher and at the perfect time too as they prepare to face Donaghmore in the first round of the Senior Championship on Saturday afternoon.
After a difficult first half of the season that saw the club missing almost a full team of senior players, they have slowly started to turn the corner since Cathal Corey returned as head coach after 14 years away.
The former Sligo boss was joint manager of Killyclogher with the late Kieran McGurk in 2005 and while he hopes history doesn’t repeat itself this term – they lost to Omagh at the first hurdle – he is looking forward to this weekend’s challenge.
While Mark Bradley is still missing, the club has been boosted by the return from the USA of Sean Fox, Nathan Donnelly and Nathan O’Neill who, along with their county men at senior and under-20 level, have help lift the mood ahead of their Championship opener.
“We came in late in the year, there were already four or five games played,” Corey explained. “It took a wee while to get going because we had guys away in America, county lads and Tyrone under-20s, so we were missing about 10 or 12 men, it was difficult.
“But we went in there and tried to focus on getting a few league points but now it’s Championship time and we’re looking forward to that.
“It’s still difficult and there’s no point saying it’s not but we’re looking forward to it and it’s a challenge.
“We got our county men back and the under-20s back and then the three boys came back from America, so it’s been great, it’s made a big difference around training and you can see the boys starting to look forward to getting playing in a Championship game.”
Last year, Killyclogher lost to Coalisland in the Senior decider and nothing in their current league campaign – they are eighth after five wins, five defeats and a draw – would suggest a similar run this term, but they have a strong pedigree so who knows what awaits in the championship.
Ardboe v Coalisland
Sunday, Edendork, 6.15pm
COALISLAND Fianna veteran Niall Kerr’s build-up to Sunday’s mouth-watering championship clash with Ardboe has included dining with opposition players.
The tough defender’s wife Rachel is the sister of Ardboe player John McConville while she also has a sister married to former Tyrone great Brian McGuigan. Both McGuigan and McConville are in the O’Donovan Rossa squad for Sunday’s clash.
Kerr has been an ever present on the Fianna senior team since he made his debut in 2003, picking up O’Neill Cup medals in 2010 and last year, an All Ireland minor medal in 2004 as well as a raft of underage championship medals.
On reflection he took more satisfaction from last years championship win than nine years ago.
He explained, “To win the championship last year was very special. Of course it was great in 2010 but I think I appreciated it more last year. In 2010 I maybe thought we’d be winning O’Neill Cups regularly but I’ve discovered it is a very tough championship to win. Last year was fantastic with the crowds when we returned to the town and went up to our field.
“Half way through the league last year and our form was very poor but when Damian O’Hagan and Peter Herron came back in charge, along with Damian’s son Jarlath, everything just took off. We really pressed ahead with our training and fitness. We were also encouraged to attack more instead of sitting back as it was felt we weren’t getting the full potential out of the players. We had backs like Dan Fee and Paudie Hampsey coming up to score big points and we were dropping long balls into the forwards and thankfully it all worked out for us.”
While the 32-year-old defender is aware that no team has retained the O’Neill Cup since Carrickmore in 2005, he suggests the pressure is on Ardboe.
“A lot of us have our second medal but they have not won the O’Neill Cup since 1998. We are playing well and hopefully can go out and express ourselves.
“We have a good blend of experience with the likes of myself and Brian Toner, Macers (Stephen McNally) Phillip Toner and Louis O’Neill and talented young players in Tiarnan Quinn, Bailey Leonard and Peter Herron as well as our top county players in Paudie and Michael McKernan, so it is a real mix.
“It is a huge challenge for us meeting Ardboe. We are always very evenly matched and the game has a big championship tradition. They have some very talented players who play for Tyrone, or have played for Tyrone, as well as very successful players recently at underage. It is a fierce rivalry and whoever wins can go forward and do well in the championship.”
Niall moved to Ardboe after he got married two year’s ago.
Wife Rachel’s allegiance is very firmly with Ardboe.
He added, “There is a lot of banter and slagging. We always meet with Brain and Tommy McGuigan in Rachel’s mother’s house on a Sunday and it was the same last week. Brian refused a chocolate biscuit as he is on a 30 day training programme but I took one! Hopefully I will be commiserating with them on Sunday night but it is a game could go either way, depending on who performs on the day.”