WHETHER it’s this year or not, Gavan McElroy predicts big things for Drumragh Sarsfields.
Drumragh’s Junior Championship campaign gets underway against Killyman on Friday night, but the team’s joint-manager says that the club will maintain a positive outlook even with a less-than-stellar championship campaign.
Young players like Ronan Maguire, Michael Mullin and Aaron Montgomery (a member of Tyrone’s All-Ireland U-17 winning team of two years ago) have already nailed down starting positions on a Drumragh team which still has a chance of making the promotion play-offs in Division Three.
McElroy is a proud Carrickmore man, and is modest about his own personal contribution to the Drumragh cause, but he has no doubt that it won’t be long before the Sarsfields are rising up the ranks of Tyrone football.
“It will happen for Drumragh sooner or later – they’ve been in the Intermediate ranks before and were one game away from making senior football a few years ago.
“There’s great structures in place, that’s nothing to do with me and the club coaches are working extremely hard. Their objective is to get to Intermediate and Senior level and I think they will achieve that in the coming years. The big thing about Drumragh at the minute is the number of talented younger players are coming through. Prioritising that is crucial for any team as if you don’t replace the older players things are going to stagnate. The young players are still in the development stage but the club is putting in a big effort.”
Drumragh absolutely thrashed Killyman earlier in the season on an eye-watering scoreline of 7-14 to 0-7, but McElroy says it would be foolish to take the east Tyrone side for granted.
“Killyman have a very proud tradition in the championship and played in Division One at a stage when I was younger. Any team that takes a team for granted in the championship will normally slip up and go out.”
Like all Tyrone teams, Drumragh didn’t see much competitive action during the summer months. McElroy, who manages the team with Peter Doherty, added that the now-yearly hiatus is a bit of a disaster and queries why Junior teams can’t keep on playing in alignment with the intercounty season.
There are eight other Junior Championship matches on this weekend. League leaders Aghaloo, who only need one point from their final three games to secure the title, are red hot favourites to account for Drumquin in the other match on Friday night.
Eskra will expect to cruise past Dregish and in Saturday’s other match at Augher Fintona face Brocagh.
Then on Sunday there are a grand total of four matches to whet the appetite. Castlederg face an extremely tough task against a Killeeshil team which reached last year’s semi-finals. Killeeshil have some extremely talented young footballers and are a dark horse for this year’s championship, while Brackaville will fancy their chances against Errigal Ciaran Thirds.
Finally, there is a double header at Donaghmore on Sunday evening. Kildress played in senior football a few years ago but there’s still little between them and Derrytresk, while there’s also a big Tyrone derby between Glenelly and Clann na nGael.