By Niall Gartland
THE expectation of success will be considerable, but new Coalisland joint-manager Barry Tracey says he was never going to shy away from taking the reins at one of the most prestigious clubs in Tyrone football.
Tracey, who will manage the side with his brother-in-law Steven McNeice, has accrued a wealth of managerial experience across his native Greencastle, Owen Roes and most recently, Donaghmore.
But the stakes are arguably even higher at a Coalisland team accustomed to featuring in senior championship finals and the like. Yes they suffered a thumping defeat to Carrickmore in a first-round contest in late September, but they have a proven track record so it’s a challenging yet exciting opportunity for Tracey.
“It was too good an opportunity to turn down when you consider their competitive edge down the years. They’ll obviously be disappointed with the Carrickmore loss, but they have the know-how to win championships.
“People in Coalisland will be looking at the team and thinking they have to up the ante a bit in Division One, it’s such a competitive division and there’s always teams there to swallow you up, so we’ll be looking for consistency first and foremost.”
“It’s a joint-venture with Stevie and it’s great to have a few Coalisland men driving things on behind the scenes.
“Peter Donnelly’s fronting up the strength and conditioning, Gerard Toner, Patrick Donnelly and there’s a few other guys in the backroom.”
They’re in the early stages of planning for next year, and Tracey is hopeful that club legends like Plunkett Kane and Stephen McNally will be back for another lash at it.
“Plunkett is such a supreme athlete and he had some great run outs for Tyrone. ‘Mackers’ has also been one of the best club players for the last decade or more, he’s an incredibly driven person. There’s great leadership and know-how in the group so it’s just about getting everything to blend and pushing the team on.”
While playees like Kane, McNally and Niall Kerr are coming to the end of their careers, the future seems bright with Niall Devlin and big midfielder Ruairi McHugh starring for Tyrone’s All-Ireland u-20 team this year (indeed, Devlin was the captain of the team), and they aren’t the only talented young footballers in the squad.
“Those players are accustomed to playing with Tyrone at underage level and you have young Ruairi Campbell as well, we’ll take a look at him and see what he has to offer.
“Tiarnan Quinn missed the championship after picking up a knock towards the end of the season, but I saw what he could do when Donaghmore played Coalisland in the league, he can run riot when given the opportunity.
“We’ll get the fitness tests done in early January and go at it from there. Last year the league didn’t start up until the middle of May so we’ll build up to things gradually – it’s all about timing at the end of the day when it comes to the league and championship.”