GAA Football

Speed of senior football was a shock admits Eglish boss Mattie McGleenan

Mattie McGleenan's Eglish take on Pomeroy in the Tyrone championship at Healy Park tomorrow. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Francis Mooney

LCC Group Tyrone SFC

MATTIE McGleenan has admitted the speed of senior football caught his players by surprise when they returned to the top grade at the start of this season.

Newly promoted Eglish suffered five defeats on the bounce before finally getting off the mark with their first league points in a morale-boosting win over Omagh at Healy Park.

This weekend, the pace is about to rise to another level as they face Pomeroy in the Tyrone SFC at Healy Park tomorrow.

“At the start of the League, the first four games were a real eye-opener, but we have got a bit of a break, and we have worked hard since. We have eight points so far,” said McGleenan.

“Our goal at the start of the year was always to try and stay in Division One and see what happens in the Championship. So we're still in a good place.”

Pomeroy's All-Ireland winning trio – Kieran McGeary, Frank Burns and Hugh Pat McGeary – present a formidable obstacle to Eglish hopes of progressing to the quarter-finals.

“Pomeroy have three of the most outstanding footballers in Tyrone right now. We have it all do to.”

But Eglish have their own Red Hand star in Conor McKenna, the former AFL professional now living the GAA dream back in his homeland.

“Conor is an absolutely brilliant young man, he has had a tremendous season, but we're not a one-man team,” the St Patrick's manager insisted.

Former Cavan and Scotstown boss McGleenan, who took the reins of his own club at the start of this year, demands high level so workrate from his players.

He believes Eglish can emerge victorious of every player starts and finishes the game at the same relentless pace.

“We're trying to build and change things around Eglish, where it's work-rate, it's tackling, it's fighting for each other.

“We're very young. I think we have five that came out of U19 football this year who started against Carrickmore (in the League), so there's a lot of youth in our side.

“The key in playing Championship football is experience, but you're not going to learn by watching, you learn by playing.

“So going to play Pomeroy in Omagh is going to be a great experience for everybody.”

McGleenan may have boldly placed his trust in youth, but has been careful to maintain a balance in his team.

Eglish will field this weekend with a nucleus of experienced players, a number of whom have represented Tyrone at various levels.

“We have a good mix of lads, we have lads who have played county football, we have young lads who have played county at Minor and U20.

“Division One football in Tyrone, I would argue, is as good a level as there is in Ulster, so if you can play with them, you can play with anybody.

“I'm just looking forward to Pomeroy, it's one game at a time.”

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