By Niall Gartland
DONAGHMORE boss Barry Tracey hopes that having the luxury of a proper pre-season will pay dividends in their forthcoming Division One campaign.
Covid brought the shutters down on conventional training methods for much of the lead in to the 2021 season, which just so happened to be Tracey’s first season in charge of Donaghmore, a club very much on the up if their underage success is any indication (and their new formed ‘Thirds’ team lost by only a point to Drumquin in their historic first-ever outing last Friday night).
This time around, he’s been able to get to grips with the team and they’re looking forward to getting their league campaign underway against Moy, a game which will likely take place on Friday week.
“Last year our pre-season was pretty condensed and we had to work remotely a lot of the time,” said the Greencastle native.
“It was the first time working together with my brother Colum as well as Mark Hetherington in a management set-up, so it was mostly about getting to know our roles, and making sure we secured our Division One status in good time.
“We managed to do that, but this year things have been more structured, and we’ve been able to refine our squad because of the introduction of the ‘Thirds’ team.
“We’ve selected 40-odd players for our seniorreserve teams and the rest will play in Division Three, but they know if they’re performing well we’ll consider bringing them into the senior panel.”
Many people consider Donaghmore a coming force in Tyrone club football given their huge success at underage level. They had six members on the Tyrone panel who reached last year’s All-Ireland Minor final, while Noah Grimes, Ben Hughes, Ronan Molloy and Conor O’Neill have been in superb form for this year’s u-17s team. Conor Cush is a nailed-on starter in this weekend’s All-Ireland u-20 final as well, and it’ll be fascinating to see their impact at senior level with Donaghmore.
Tracey said: “We’ll be getting Conor Cush back from the u-20s if he isn’t pulled into the senior squad, and Ronan Donnelly as well.
“Ronan Cassidy is still coming back from injury, but the likes of Thomas McGuigan and Ciaran Donnelly, lads who won the Grade One double at minor level last year, have really stood out in challenge matches for us. We’ve brought in six fellas from last year’s minor squad and I’d be expecting three or four of them to make an impression as impact subs or even pushing for a starting place. Then there’s lads further down the line who’ll come into the squad next year as well.”
Tracey will also be on the line against his native Greencastle in a round three clash in a few weeks time.
There’ll be no hard feelings between him and Greencastle boss Sean Teague whatever happens, he says.
“Sean and I are good friends on and off the field, there’s a high level of respect.
“We’re both very competitive and will want to win, but we’ll be able to sit down and have a pint together after the game. There’ll be no animosity, put it like that.”