By Barry O’Donnell
EXPERIENCED Clonoe goalkeeper Michael O’Neill feels it is up to the younger brigade now to carry on the club’s proud tradition after they chiselled out a vital league victory away to Dromore on Friday night.
The Rahillys came into the contest at Gardrum Park having lost all bar one of their opening six matches, a sequence of losses which left them in the relegation zone at the bottom of the table.
However, a super late save from O’Neill, allied to a brace of goals from Ryan Quinn, helped them stop the rot as they edged to a 2-6 to 0-10 victory.
Former county netminder O’Neill admitted that the outcome provided a timely boost for Clonoe and should hopefully now provide the foundations for the team to push on.
“There is no better place to stop the rot than the home of the county champions. When you are going through a bad patch coming to Dromore could be the worst fixture to have but we stuck in there and dug deep.
“Anytime you play here you have to lift your game whatever form you are in. Thank god we got to grips with it and we stayed in the game the whole way. It was great to get the result in the end up.
“It would have been typical if we conceded a last minute goal but thankfully I stayed up and got the save and the defenders then helped out with the breaking ball.”
Mickey felt that one of the most encouraging aspects of the result was the contribution of the newer recruits to the senior fold who have taken time to settle into the demands of top flight club football in Tyrone
“We have brought in a lot of young boys this year and they are starting to find their feet.
“It’s important to do that even if the results haven’t been great because those boys are the future of the club.
“You saw the likes of Shea Coney, Shane Hughes and MJ Mansell there putting in good performances.
We know what those lads are capable of.
“Maybe game management has been a problem at times in games and some of us older boys haven’t stepped up to help the younger boys out. But for Clonoe these days it is a building process. The experienced lads who got to county finals are no longer about. It’s up to the new lads to step up now and they did that here tonight. It’s all about now keeping it going.”
Over the past decade the Rahillys have been perennially regarded as one of the livewire contenders for the championship and with the holiday break now out of the way, O’Neill feels that the O’Neill Cup countdown is brought into sharper focus.
“As soon as you get the date for the championship it focuses things that bit more. Everyone knuckles down and things get more intense at training and in matches. Even though the September 23 weekend might seem far away still, all players know that you are aiming to peak towards that date.”