NEW players aiming to carve out a bright area of success will lead the onslaught for both Carrickmore and Omagh as the two clubs with proud championship traditions go head to head this afternoon.
Both have been involved in a spirited rebuilding process during recent years. But the quest for O’Neill Cup glory now means that their knock-out credentials will be put to the test in what’s arguably the most intriguing of ties over the coming days.
Amazingly, it is now sixteen years since the St Colmcille’s, who lead the Roll of Honour, last tasted success in Red Hand county’s showpiece competition. Much has changed since their last triumph back in 2005, but now a whole host of new players are bidding to bridge a gap seen by them as being far too long.
St Enda’s have a much more recent record of achievement, having won the title in 2014 and again in 2017. Many of the players who guided them to those successes are still on board, including Tyrone All-Ireland winning stars, Conor Meyler and Ronan O’Neill.
Indeed, this will be their first championship meeting since the first round of the 2015 championship when Omagh repeated their 2014 County Final success over the St Colmcille’s.
It’s the present and the future, though, that matters now and Carrickmore’s proud record at underage level during the past decade is at last beginning to yield dividends where it matters most. Indeed, in last year’s County Minor Final it was Carrickmore who defeated Omagh to complete the league and championship double.
Experienced players such as Barry Daly and Cormac and Jonathan Munroe, both Tyrone panelists, are being complimented by rising stars. The likes of Daniel Fullerton, Lorcan McBride and the team captain, Ruairi Donnelly, have all been gaining vital experience in recent years, with Conor Gormley, Mark Donnelly and Martin Penrose still on hand to offer important advice and on-field help when needed. They are managed by Noel Hurson and Ryan Daly.
Omagh, whose fortunes are being guided this year by Laurence Strain, are, too, hoping that their rebuilding process will soon be yielding dividends. The experience of Ronan O’Neill, Conor O’Donnell, the Gallagher brothers and Jason McAnulla has been evident in recent league games, adding further to the intriguing ingredients in place for this first championship clash since the 2014 County Final.
St Enda’s defender, Barry Tierney, is well aware of the need to see new players coming through the ranks and he’s relishing watching their growing credentials.
“It was good to get back out playing a few weeks ago in the league and getting the legs going again after a long lay-off. We’ve needed points in the league because things are tight,” he said.
“Coming up to the championship it was important to get those couple of matches. The county lads are back as well, and we just want to get them blended back into the game.
“There are a few young lads in the team now who have been coming through over the past few years from the Minor teams. They’re definitely pushing us older lads through and that’s definitely what you want to see happening.”