Cookstown boss looks to the future

By Niall Gartland

COOKSTOWN aren’t counting their chickens just yet but they’re only a stone’s throw away from finishing their Division Three campaign as champions with only three rounds of fixtures remaining.

Manager Conleth Donnelly is pleased with their progress and why wouldn’t he be – they’ve won all 13 of their matches to date – but he’s also mindful of helping to create a culture in Cookstown that will see them excel in years down the line, rather than hopping between Division Two and Three and back again.

They claimed hard-fought victories over promotion rivals Fintona and Aghaloo in the space of three days last weekend and while they aren’t quite home and hosed, it’d be a major surprise if they don’t go on to finish the job and claim an automatic promotion berth.

Donnelly said: “We’ve going well but the league’s not won yet and we’re well aware there’s a full Championship campaign coming in September, no doubt it’ll be us and four or five other teams that’ll probably battle it out for the Championship.

“That’s obviously very important to us in the short team but our big focus is on developing new structures and bringing through players, and we’re starting to do that.

“The club as worked really hard at youth level, Cookstown are fielding two youth teams in Grade One in all age groups.

“We came on board at the start of the year and our message was to improve the culture of the club and the attitude of the boys.

“ We want the younger lads to look up to all our experienced players, we fully recognise we shouldn’t be a Junior team and we’re working hard on rectifying that.”

Fr Rocks claimed the Junior Championship title as recently as two years ago but their stint back in the Intermediate ranks was a short-lived one.

Donnelly recognises that in theory they should be operating at a higher level on a more sustained basis.

“People will say ‘Cookstown are a town team and should have big numbers’ and we do have 50 men at training most nights, and it’s even hard to pick a reserve team as we want to develop players across the board.

“It’s not just about winning, it’s about looking to the future of the club.

“ If we’re blessed to achieve promotion when the league is done and dusted that’ll be great but the challenge in that case would be staying up in Intermediate football.”

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