Tyrone Minors renew battle with Donegal
A summer of extraordinary drama provided Collie Holmes with enough memories to last a lifetime and rewards that most coaches can only dream of.
After helping to guide Dungannon Clarkes to a first Tyrone SFC triumph in 64 years, the remaining months of 2020 promised to bring him countless hours for idle reflection.
The postponement of the Ulster MFC – for a second time – reinforced the expectation that the season had run its course.
But an invitation to join the new Tyrone senior management team last month was followed just days later by news that the Minor Championship was to be reprieved
Fixtures were rapidly drawn up and confirmed, with the Red Hands due to face Donegal this Saturday, and minor manager Holmes was plunged into a frenzy of organisational activity as he mobilised a squad that had been stood down several weeks ago.
And all that while immersing himself in his new role with the seniors, with preparations for the 2021 season getting under way as soon as the appointment of Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher was confirmed.
"The management have been understanding, that the minors were going to come back on, and said that that won't be an issue.
"I have managed before at club and county, so it's all doable and very enjoyable," said Holmes.
It has been a frustrating year of uncertainty and fragmentation for the Tyrone U17 team.
They got to play just two games in the Ulster Minor League, losing to Cavan at home and beating Donegal away, before the campaign was abandoned due to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Championship was under threat, and appeared doomed when it was deemed to be outside the realm of elite sport, suffering a second postponement.
But it will go ahead this weekend at the third time of asking, and it's a must-win game for both sides, with no Qualifier rounds in a straight knock-out series this season.
"Everybody is lauding the benefits of knock-out football so we're back there again and it's winner takes all up in Ballybofey." said Holmes.
The provincial series is to continue into the new year, with the Ulster final scheduled for January 9, and the All-Ireland final for the weekend of January 23/24.
"It could be something to look forward to over Christmas, or it could be wrapped up before the end of the calendar year, it's as clear-cut as that. I know both teams will go at it hard," said the treble All-Ireland winner.
"Donegal is a very tough place to go at any time of the year. We went there in the League in difficult conditions in March, and we'll be expecting exactly the same. I know Garvaghey will prepare us well for that."
Tyrone defeated Donegal in last year's Minor Championship, and have a handful of survivors from that team, while the home side will be a new-look outfit with no-one from the 2019 collective.
The winners will face Derry or Armagh in the semi-finals.