STRABANE Sigersons manager Eamon McGowan believes a good season for his side would see them finishing in the promotion play-off places, but he knows, given the quality of sides in Division Two, that is easier said than achieved.
With Galbally, Aghyaran and Pomeroy dropping down a division after last year, the battle for a place at the top table certainly hasn’t got any easier and factor in Newtownstewart’s promotion from Division Three and a host of north Tyrone derbies and you can appreciate where McGowan is coming from.
“For us to have a good season we’d need to be looking at the play-offs, but it’s a tight division,” he acknowledged.
“There could be a couple of points between the play-offs to go up and the play-offs to go down – it’s that sort of a division. It’s dog eat dog and I know the teams coming down will be strong and Newtown coming up means there will be no easy games.
“We have a lot of derbies this year – Aghyaran, Gortin, even Greencastle could be considered close to us too, Owen Roes, Newtown, Urney – but I suppose it means we don’t have a lot of travelling!
“It’ll be a bit of excitement for the supporters and for the players because a lot of them know each other.”
Having taken over the reigns from the ill-fated stewardship of the County Derry management team of Charlie O’Kane, Jody Wilson and Mark Quigley, McGowan and Gerard Murray quickly steadied what was looking like a sinking ship.
Their early honeymoon period tapered off as the season reached a conclusion as player numbers dropped, but the dedicated clubman believes when everyone is available, he has a team that can achieve something this term.
“We did seem to galvanise the squad when we came in, but then we struggled towards the latter stages of the season with players missing and this and that,” he explained.
“They’re slowly coming back in dribs and drabs, but hopefully we’ll get them all together sooner rather than later.
“We’ve a lot of boys in the group and things look decent enough – there’s a good side there on paper.”
And he’ll need his team to prove they are a good side on the pitch come Sunday when they open their campaign at home against a Greencastle side, who have proved a bogey team in the past before they entertain Gortin a week later during a hectic start to the season, which could be defined by the end of April.
“We start with a couple of home games, so hopefully we’ll get a few points on the board early on. A win would do wonders for the group right away, it would give us momentum and give us something to build on. A good start is essential,” McGowan stressed.
“We always struggle with Greencastle, they’re a good side and I think they have a few men back. They were a division one side not that long ago, so it will be a tough test to start with. They are a quality side.
“Then we take on Gortin, so it’s a chance to get a few points on the board but they are two tough games. But they are both at home so we’ll try to build something.
“It doesn’t look like there’s going to be much football played in May, so it really is important to get off to a good start because your season could be defined by the end of April!,” he concluded.