Dromore believe they can break Tyrone SFC holders' hoodoo: Ricey

Dromore St Dympna's captain Conor O Hara lifts the O'Neill Cup last night after his team defeated Coalisland in last year's county SFC Final at Healy Park. Picture: Seamus Loughran
Dromore St Dympna's captain Conor O Hara lifts the O'Neill Cup last night after his team defeated Coalisland in last year's county SFC Final at Healy Park. Picture: Seamus Loughran

Ryan McMenamin won't take offence at the jibes and the routine dismissals of his team's chances of retaining the Tyrone SFC crown.

It's 17 years since a champion has clinched back-to-back titles in the Red Hand county, and Dromore are the latest club faced with the seemingly impossible task of becoming the first to hold on to the O'Neill Cup since Carrickmore did it in 2005.

Joint manager McMenamin says his players will go into Sunday's semi-final against Errigal Ciaran with the weight of expectation lifted off their shoulders.

"We have no pressure on us in here, because everyone says we can't win it back-to-back," he said.

"There's no pressure, we're just going out and enjoying the football.

"People are telling us we can't win it back-to-back in Tyrone."

But Ricey and his management partner Paul McIver have trust and faith in a group of players that have passed every test they have faced in the current series.

"Every other team will be saying that they're looking at the next game. That's fine, but we're there in a semi-final and you play the Championship to win.

"We're in a semi-final now, and we believe we have as good a chance as anybody. And I'm sure Errigal will feel that they have a chance."

With hard-earned wins over Killyclogher and Omagh under their belts, they go into Sunday evening's Healy Park tie with confidence.

"You always want to defend your title, you always want to put up a show, and I think we're doing that."

Treble All-Ireland winner McMenamin will ask no more of his players than to do themselves justice with an honest display of heart and endeavour.

"As we always say to the boys, we just want to make the Dromore people proud, and all that Dromore people expect of Dromore players is just to go out and work hard.

"The last couple of games, the lads have shown great hunger.

"If we lose and we give it all, Dromore people are a hundred per cent. We always want to do it for Dromore people.

"If we had lost, I think Dromore people would have been very, very happy with the performance that we put in."

The quality of a narrow quarter-final win over Omagh was compromised by weather conditions at Loughmacrory last weekend, but the former Fermanagh boss was delighted with the application shown by his team as they closed out a 0-6 to 0-5 success.

"That was a battle, it was a derby, and in a derby between us and Omagh, it's always never a kick of a ball between us in the Championship.

"They're not enjoyable on the sideline, but they're enjoyable when you win, and it's a night's work.

"It was one of those games, it was a bad morning. It was just one of those days that affected both teams.

"I think the wind was more of a hindrance to the teams than a help. I think Ronie O'Neill missed a couple of frees, Co (Conan Grugan) missed a free that he normally would have scored.

"We had a couple of chances, they had a couple of chances. It was just a dogged performance, you always get them in a Championship.

"I thought Tommy McCarron did a superb job on Co Grugan, and Nathan McCarron kept Conor Meyler quiet.

"Our bench kinda won us the game against Killyclogehr, and our bench came off again and they were fantastic."

All-Star Niall Sludden's fitness is a concern. He missed the first round win over Killyclogher with a hamstring strain, and played only half an hour against Omagh, but made a big impact off the bench, scoring two vital points.

"We lost Niall the last game, and we knew he had half an hour or twenty minutes in him, so we put him on, and Sean McNabb is building his fitness up.

"So look, it's a 20-man game, it's unfortunate that with 35 men training, they all can't get in."