NEW Urney boss Mickey Rea is barely in the door but he is confident that his newly promoted charges can rise to the challenge in their long-awaited return to Division One football.
Appointed to the position at the turn of the new year, the former Tyrone ladies manager is enthused by the prospect of steering St Columba’s first campaign in the top flight in two decades, which was memorably secured in a make or break play-off against Eglish in November.
Division One football will hardly be taken for granted considering Urney’s unfortunate string of hard-luck stories in the past five years, losing out in Intermediate Championship finals in 2012, 2013, and 2015.
The north Tyrone men will take inspiration from the likes of Edendork and Galbally, who made the jump to Division One football in 2015 and survived unscathed for another season.
He said, “It’s a massive year for the club. Obviously getting into Division One, for Urney and any other team in Tyrone, is where you aspire to play your football.
“Everybody has been very accommodating, there’s a buzz in the club. You have the likes of Strabane and Edendork who have proved you can maintain your status with hard work.”
The glass half-empty argument suggests that they won’t have it easy either. League champions Dromore averaged almost 20 points a game last year while fellow heavy hitters Coalisland and Killyclogher also dished out regular beatings, but Rea is confident they can successfully navigate any sticky patches.
“At the end of the day, you’ve 15 other teams in Division One, and each one of those games is going to be taken on their individual merit. I’ve no doubt there will be big challenges against the likes of Dromore, Killyclogher, Coalisland and Clonoe but our lads are looking froward to it. I think if the lads buy into my methods, I think they’ll do well.”
The Derrytresk man is settled in nearby Coalisland in the east of the county and faces a journey of around 50 miles each way to his new club.
In saying that, he managed Division Three side Dregish last year so he’s hardly ill-prepared for a taxing commute. Moreover, he also has prior experience of coaching a Division One team at Antrim side Aldergove in 2014.
He said, “I’m living in Coalisland. The travelling is irrelevant whenever you get an opportunity to manage a Division One club in Tyrone. Being with Dregish in the past year was a similar drive.”
“I managed along with JC Devlin down in Aldergrove in 2014. We had an exciting year, we finished fifth in Division One. I would’ve done all the training.”
Rea, who won an Ulster Junior medal with his native Derrytresk in 2011, has two loyal Urney men leading the line with him and recognises that there can be no room for skipping corners in the highest echelons of Tyrone football.
“I’m working with two clubmen that were part of the management team that took them through the play-offs- Sean McDevitt and Shane McGill, who was over the reserves. I’m working with men on the inside, we’ve gelled and we’ve only been together a week.
“At the end of the day, Urney have been knocking on the door, almost winning Intermediate Championships. They’ve a lot of work to do and they appreciate that themselves. We’ll take it one game at a time and see how we get on.”