By Michael McMullan
STAYING in Division One was always Steelstown’s target this year insists manager Paddy Campbell.
Now, with their status secured, the Brian Ógs are eyeing a similar feat when the senior championship rolls into action this summer.
While falling narrow to Newbridge ini the league at the weekend, defeats for Ballinascreen and Lavey leave fifth placed Steelstown safe with two games to play.
Campbell, a former Donegal defender and a senior selector under Declan Bonner, moved to Derry where he played for and managed Steelstown in the past.
He is a former Oakleaf minor boss and his son Odhran played a pivotal defensive role for Derry in Sunday’s All-Ireland minor semi-final win over Dublin.
Steelstown were All-Ireland intermediate champions two years ago before a combination of taking their foot off the pedal and players travelling, they didn’t break any delft in the senior ranks.
“For us to be able to compete with seasoned Division One teams is very positive for the players, the management team, the club and the young players coming through,” Campbell said of his first season back at the helm.
He heads a management team that includes Donegal trio Shane McFadden, Packie Gallaher and Ryan McKinley. Tyrone man Conall McElholm is on board to look after the Strength and Conditioning side of things.
From their All-Ireland winning team, only Mark Foley has hung up the boots. Impact man Mickey McKinney is now operating as their roving goalkeeper with Neil Forester and Ryan Devine still on board.
“We brought in a couple of young fellas Eoin Canavan and Oran Durnin who have started most of the games,” said Campbell, with the contentment of having built a panel.
They were down seven, eight or nine players at times but wins over Glen, Magherafelt and Swatragh have given Campbell confidence in the greater depth of the squad.
“The championship will be coming along for a lot of the clubs, and they’ll be playing week in and week out for six weeks in a row,” Campbell pointed out.
“You need a bit of depth with injuries, so we are delighted to have a group of 20 plus players that have a bit of senior experience.”
Glen fielded eight players that saw game time in Croke Park earlier this year but Steelstown – missing “six or seven” themselves were delighted with the win.
“We learned a lot,” Campbell said. “We went in a bit blind, but we matched them fairly well. There were other games in the year we played a bit better than that and lost. Then we won a few games we could’ve drew or lost.”
Looking ahead to the championship, Campbell feels there is still “a lot” of ground still to make up.
“It’s still a big ask,” he said. “Every team in the championship will be looking for us. They will be saying it was a bit of a fluke in the league.
“We have still a lot of work to do on the field and in the gym this winter, we’ve a bit of catching up to do.”