Morrison hopeful about young Strabane team’s chances

By Niall Gartland

THIS weekend marks the return of All-County Football League at Division Three senior level in Tyrone, and while it’s a marathon not a sprint, there will be a natural degree of excitement at the return of competitive football after months of training and preparation.

New to Division Three this season are Strabane, Tattyreagh and Killeeshil, the trio of teams unfortunate enough to be demoted from Intermediate level football in 2023.

But hopes will be high of a reversal of fortunes and Strabane stalwart Kyle Morrison (still only 27 years old, granted) is positive about the road ahead with talented young players coming through the ranks.

Asked if promotion straight back to Division Two is the goal, Morrison said: “If the opportunity presents itself, and we’re going well, I don’t question that we can do it.

“It’s about the younger lads getting that experience of adult football, and when you do get that and start to fill out a wee bit, then hopefully we’ll be more than capable of pushing back to that level that we have previously been at.”

Strabane played Senior Championship football as recently as 2017 but they’ve fallen down the pecking order in the mean-time. A number of key figures have retired but the club as a whole can take solace from recent successes at underage level. Meanwhile, they have a new management team in place this year spearheaded by Richard O’Neill and Ryan O’Kane.

“For a number of years, after myself the likes of Haydn McNamee came through, there was nothing for about five or six years, so it was very hard to sustain.

“And eventually you’re going to lose the likes of your Danny McBrides, your Warner Mullans, your JP Gallaghers.

“You’re losing massive players there like, players who have been unbelievable for us over the years.

“There’s a feeling of acceptance that we are where we are now, but there’s also a lot of positivity, because we know where we’re capable of going.”

“We know we have those boys pushing the likes of myself and Haydn and Conal Crawford, and we’re all hopefully only coming into the peak of our own playing careers.

“There’s an acceptance of where we’re at, but also positivity about where we can go, and keeping this group together.”

Reflecting on the 2023 season, he acknowledged that relegation was a disappointing outcome but it was never going to be easy with the players at their disposal.

“It was disappointing year. In some ways it was not expected, but we knew we had a massive battle to retain the status in Intermediate last year, because from the team that we had in the promotion year, we had lost quite a number of boys due to retirements.

Morrison, who was part of the Holy Cross College Strabane team that reached this year’s Markey Cup final continued:

“We had three lads overseas with the Irish Army, and a couple of boys picked up injuries early on. So we had to go with a very young and inexperienced team. Of course any season you get relegated is disappointing, but we’re now at a stage of transition, and it’s a new team.”

“There was a lot going on in the community, with prominent young figures passing away.

“The community needed a lift, and the boys provided that through the football, and the buzz created around it was unbelievable

“Looking back on it now, and the photographs in the newspaper. We had our first and second years up, getting their faces painted, and that’s hopefully inspiring them to go on and do the same, or if not, go further late down the line.

“And it only benefits north Tyrone football. We’re not Strabane men or Urney men, we’re Holy Cross men, and we’re here for the betterment of football in the area.”

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