Carrickmore boss Hurson believes league form will count for nothing in championship clash with Omagh
LCC Tyrone SFC first round: Carrickmore v Omagh St Enda's (today, Loughmacrory, 1pm)
Division One high-flyers Carrickmore are one of Tyrone’s form teams this season, but league performances are merely a by-product of a grander design.
Championship is king, and for a club with the proud tradition of Carmen, the only currency that holds any real value.
Their O’Neill Cup journey begins when they take on Omagh in a first round tie today, the date that everything has been geared towards.
“We’re not looking at league titles. We’re looking at trying to get lads to perform every day they go out. We have been preparing for championship this last wee while,” said joint manager Noel Hurson.
The Tyrone championship is a minefield where great teams perish, and none has managed to retain the title since 2005, when Carrickmore put triumphs back to back.
They haven’t won it since, however. Still the county’s most successful club with 15 titles, there’s a yearning at Pairc Colmcille for that special feeling.
No room for slip-ups in a straight knock-out format, and no such thing as a safe passage in a series that could see any one of a dozen contenders go all the way.
Omagh and Carrickmore figure prominently among the fancied sides, but one of them will fall at Loughmacrory this afternoon.
“We’re going is as serious underdogs. Omagh is a serious team, we have seen that over the years, they’re a well seasoned team,” Hurson insisted.
“Conor Meyler and Ronan O’Neill have been playing to a serious level in senior football, and we’re not there.
“We have a lot of young players who don’t have the experience of being there. We’ll give it a rattle, but we have a lot of work to do.”
Hurson, who shares management duties with Ryan Daly, believes the pace will be fast and furious, and his side will have to be ready for the swift counter-attacks that make Omagh tick.
“Omagh is a running side, they’re fit and strong, but we’ll prepare for it as best we can and see how we get on.”
Carrickmore’s youth policy has underpinned a steady development process over recent years, and championship titles at U21 and minor levels have provided grounds for optimism, with players from those successful teams now integrating into the senior set-up.
“These lads have had good underage success. People talk about underage success, but sometimes it doesn’t come through.
“We have been working hard this last number of years to try and build a new team again.
“It’s not easy, but that’s what we’re working on, and it’s going to take a long time. Building anything takes a long time, but we’ll keep working on it and try and get as many through as we can and see where it goes from there.”
But an experienced core remains, providing a balance that Carrickmore supporters hope will bring back long-awaited success.
A well-known trio from Tyrone’s heyday in the Noughties are still involved, with Conor Gormley, Martin Penrose and Mark Donnelly all playing important roles at advanced stages of their careers.
“They’re playing a very important role. Those lads are putting in good training, they’re there all the time, they’re training as well as anybody else.
“It’s championship football and they are the experienced lads, they have been there, they have played senior football, they have played for Tyrone.
“You can’t put an old head on young shoulders, so we’ll use those lads to the best of our ability. They’re going well, and there’s competition for them to get in there, so it’s good.”