By Barry O’Donnell
STRIKING that fine balance between remaining competitive while ushering fresh blood into their ranks has been the chief objective of Ryan McMenamin during the first few months of his managerial tenure at Gardrum Park.
The Dromore legend has big boots to fill this season with his predeceSsor- another St Dympna’s stalwart- Colm McCullagh having led the club to the Senior Championship title in 2021 but so far things are ticking along nicely for ‘Ricey’.
The team sit on the coat-tails of the leaders in the Division One league table after enjoying a productive ‘double header’ weekend when they sealed victories over both Greencastle and Ardboe.
The former Tyrone star has been satisfied with what his charges have produced in the first two thirds of their ACL campaign, especially give the litany of absentees over the duration.
“It’s been a funny league campaign in that we have had a lot of boys out injured and others missing for various things, holidays and what have you.
“But in saying that we have been solid enough. We have been able to bring in some younger players which is a plus for us. We just want to keep on building now. Every game has been a battle as it always is in the Tyrone League. But we are more than happy with where we are at.
“We are getting more and more players back from injury which is a positive.”
McMenamin admits that Dromore are blessed to have such healthy strength in numbers which he has had to tap into at various junctures this season.
“Any successful team needs a strong panel of 23 or 24 players these days. We are lucky in that the Reserves are also going well and have their Championship quarter-final next Sunday. We will look at that and keep eyes on young players to hopefully come in.
“Like all clubs, Dromore want to bring the next generation through while continuing to compete for the main prizes.”
St Dympna’s prime focus this year will clearly be on defending their O’Neill Cup crown but traditionally down through the years they have also tended to mount a sustained bid for league honours too. McMenamin acknowledges that they will be striving to get in among the mix during the closing stretch.
“There’s still a bit to go in the league, we have five matches remaining and a lot can happen. If we are still floating about near the top in the latter stages we will worry about it then. Right now we just want to get enough points on the board to stay up first and foremost because it is so competitive in Division One.”
However the league unfolds though it is that mouth-watering championship opener against high-flying Killyclogher which will ultimately determine what trajectory St Dympna’s season will take. Ryan knows it will be a difficult opening to their title defence.
“It is all about building our preparations for Killyclogher. We know that is going to be a tough battle. They have a lot of good players.
“For all teams it is now about peaking towards that September start. It’s nice too this year to hopefully have the League done and dusted because after the Championship lads can struggle for motivation if you still have one or two oustanding League matches to get out of the way in November. That can be very hard on the players because you need to be giving them time off as well.”