By Niall Gartland
NEWLY appointed Omagh, St Enda’s manager Lenny Harbinson says he intended taking a step back from management this season, but was persuaded to change his mind and is looking forward to his first foray into Tyrone club football.
Harbinson led his native St Gall’s to their crowning achievement of an All-Ireland club title back in 2010 and had a three-year stint in charge of Antrim between 2018 and 2020.
He was set to take a sabbatical this season but last Friday his name was announced as the new manager of St Enda’s, succeeding Larry Strain who departed a number of weeks ago.
Explaining how his appointment came about, Harbinson said: “I wasn’t going to get involved with football this year because my son’s getting married later in the year.
“A number of clubs had asked me before Christmas but I decided against it. Omagh were persistent, however, and said they could make it work.
“There were a number of calls and a meeting with [club chairman] Conor Sally and we decided it could work for both parties. Football is in my blood anyway so it would be hard not to be involved.”
He continued: “It’s a massive challenge but Omagh are a very strong club, their facilities are second-to-none and there’s a number of players involved with both the Tyrone u-20 and senior set-ups. There’s a good blend of youth and experience, and a cohort of players who were involved when they won their last Championship [in 2017].”
Easing the transition is the presence of another Antrim man, Kevin Brady, who was involved last season. Brady had a long and distinguished career in the Saffron colours and his knowledge of Tyrone club football should come in handy.
Harbinson said: “Kevin is staying on which is fantastic. Immediately you have someone who isn’t just familiar with the club and players, but the various teams we’re going to be competing against.
“People the length and breadth of Ireland know about the competitiveness of the Tyrone club championship, there’s usually a different winner every year which is a testimony to the strength of club football in the county.”
While Harbinson has been brought on board relatively late in the day, the All County Leagues aren’t set to start for another while so in theory the St Enda’s club shouldn’t find themselves behind in their preparations.
“They’ve been doing their winter work like most clubs, all that’s been ongoing.
“They’ve only just started getting out on the field. We’ll have six or seven weeks to get up to speed and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in.”