Donnelly downplays Ardboe’s new season expectations

THE long-awaited return to collective training for club teams in the North is edging closer and the GAA is expected to confirm its revised  calendar by the end of this week.

It remains to be seen when exactly the club season will be played off this year – but it’s safe to say that the renowned Tyrone Club Championships will maintain their traditional knock-out format and that any one of a number of teams will fancy their chances of usurping Dungannon as O’Neill Cup kingpins.

Ardboe, for example, have enlisted Mickey Donnelly as manager – the very man who brought them to the brink of glory in 2009, where they famously lost out to Dromore following  a late Collie McCullagh penalty – so hopes will naturally be high in the Loughshore club.

They lost to Dungannon after extra-time in a thrilling quarter-final clash last year, but their experienced manager is keen to downplay expectations ahead of the new season.

Everyone in Ardboe would say ‘we were very close last year against Dungannon’, but you have to remember they didn’t shoot the lights out against Donaghmore in the first round.

By the same token, Loughmacrory nearly had Dungannon beaten as well, but people aren’t saying they’re potential senior champions, so why would Ardboe be any different?

A lot of teams are coming to the boil, and personally I think Errigal are going to be very strong. They lost out in last year’s semi-final but they were missing some serious players like Darragh Canavan, Pauric McAnenly, Padraig McGirr and Joe Oguz, so I’d see them as one to watch.”

Donnelly, who managed his native Aghaloo in the last couple of seasons, does however point out that there may be some extra pressure on Errigal’s new management team of Mark Harte and Adrian O’Donnell as it’s their home club.

It’s hard in your own club – I loved taking Aghaloo but it’s difficult because you can’t detach from it. You go to mass on Sunday or to the shop or wherever and it’s impossible to escape it.”

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