THE thin red line. That narrow margin between staleness and interest. Trillick manager Nigel Seaney knows it exists, and for the time being he feels that he is on the right side of it as his players prepare for Sunday’s county final against Dungannon (Healy Park, 5.30pm).
The club game in the GAA has perhaps been taking too much influence from our neighbours across the Irish Sea in the Premier League. Managerial stints seem to have an expiry date of a couple of seasons.
Not for Seaney though who is in his seventh season with the team, and sixth as manager.
“I came in 2014, Raymond Monteith was in charge and I was there as a coach. In 2015 I took charge of the side,” said the affable Seaney, who guided the St Macartan’s to the O’Neill Cup in his first year as manager and also in 2019.
“If you’re bringing ideas in and you’re looking the players to respond to them, there does be a fine line between it working and it going stale.
“As long as players are listening to the message and you’re seeing them actively use it, it’s usually an indication that your message is coming across.
“If that wasn’t the case it would be an indication of that staleness and it would be time to move.”
Trillick carry the tag of ‘heavy favourites’ into Sunday’s game, just like they did when the teams met in the 2014 Intermediate final.
Seaney, then a selector, watched on in despair as the then also ‘heavy favourites’ were torn apart by a fluid, attack-minded Dungannon side that posted 4-11 – and all of it from play too.
“Every single game takes on a life of its own and we were beat off the pitch that day fair and square,” he said. “The game was lost before it even started. They got a very early goal and some days you just come across a team that is better than you. They were miles better on the day.
“Our approach will be concerned with how we’re playing. We are just working on the things that we are trying to achieve.”
The achievement they desire is consecutive Tyrone titles, something that would be an amazing return in the pressure-cooker arena of Red Hand football.
Seaney, like his assistant Liam Donnelly after the win over Coalisland, was adamant that talk of two from two hasn’t entered the Trillick discourse – and it’s hard to find any quiver in his voice to suggest that it’s a line for the media.
“There has been no talk about it at all. Even separating years is irrelevant in football, you have to separate it into games.
“You have to deal with the challenge that is immediately ahead of you and the history of it hasn’t entered into our thinking at all.
“We are just looking at ourselves. The more you look at opposition, the more you see good players and the more your mind starts to wander. You have to focus on what you’re going to do yourself.”
Dungannon McNulty happy with his decisions
PADRAIG McNulty left the Tyrone intercounty set-up of his own accord while in the prime of his career, and who can say that it wasn’t a risk worth taking?
The Dungannon Clarkes captain quietly slipped off the stage in January 2019 citing a troublesome back injury which had caused him problems for some time.
Tyrone Senior Football Final
Dungannon v Trillick
Sunday, Healy Park, 5.30pm
But he now admits that he struggled for some time with balancing his club and county duties, and it’s no coincidence that he’s been at his rampaging, all-action best in this year’s unforgettable run to the senior championship final.
That’s not to say he didn’t love playing for Tyrone. He says he made a quantum leap forward on a technical and tactical level while he was part o the Tyrone set up.
Progress was made but he admits it wasn’t feasible for him to continue.
“Playing with Tyrone was great and I loved every minute of it, but it was hard to give 100 percent to both Dungannon and Tyrone,” said McNulty.
“I struggled with that, but now I’m really enjoying my football, and I’m loving being captain and leading the team. I thought I played well sometimes with Tyrone but I struggled with consistency. I was in and out of the team but at the minute I can focus on playing every match. I feel fitter and stronger and more confident in my own ability.”
But elaborating on the many things he learnt during his five-year-stint with Tyrone, he said: “When you play for Tyrone, you’re playing with brilliant players and you learn things you don’t really encounter in a club environment – tactics, kicking the ball better, the intensity of playing in big championship games.
“In fairness Division One football is of a similar standard, and a lot of the boys on our team have played at minor and u-20 level with Tyrone so they have experience of playing with the best players in the county, and against the best players in Ireland, and we’ve all benefited from it.”
Running out on the Healy Park sod on Tyrone Senior Championship final day was nothing more than a pipedream when Dungannon had a stint in Division Three a decade ago. McNulty won an Intermediate title with the club in 2014, and has a couple of Ulster Championship medals in his back-pocket, but nothing compares to this.
“This is the highlight of my career and all our careers. We never thought we’d be here. We’ve come a long way from playing in Division Three.
“We never really did well in the championship, but this year we’ve really come to the fore and I couldn’t have dreamt it any better.”
While Dungannon’s only goal at the start of the campaign was getting past the challenge of Loughmacrory in the first-round, they were determined to grasp the nettle in their last-four clash against Errigal Ciaran. Broadcast live on RTE, it went down right to the wire as corner-back Ciaran Barker nailed a 45 with the last kick of extra-time. McNulty had a stormer, but there were heroes in every sector as they upset the odds to reach this weekend’s decider against Trillick, and again they’ll want to strike while the iron is hot.
“We were just concentrating on winning our first-round match, but in the semi-final the goal is obviously to get to the final so we were trying our best to win. It’s an honour to reach the final.”
By Niall McCoy and Niall Gartland