LEAGUE form has a tendency to go out the window when the Junior Championship comes around, but that being said, Glenelly boss Dermot Corry believes several of the teams in the top six of the division three table are the most likely to annex the title.
Ahead of the first round of this year’s competition, which gets underway tomorrow (Friday), Corry spent a relaxing week by the sea in Rossnowlagh where he was formulating a plan of attack that he hopes will guide his St Joseph’s through a tricky derby clash with Clann na nGael at Newtownstewart on Sunday afternoon.
By the time their game throws-in, half of the quarter-finalists will have been decided as Drumquin tackle runaway division three leaders Aghaloo and Drumragh clash with Killyman at Fintona tomorrow, while Brocagh and Fintona go head-to-head at Augher on Saturday before Dregish lock horns with Eskra.
Also playing on Sunday are Killeeshil and Castlederg ahead of Glenelly’s meeting with Clann na nGael, while at Donaghmore Brackaville take on Errigal Ciaran III and Derrytresk face Corry’s Championship favourites, Kildress.
“For me, if you’re going on league form and the teams we’ve played so far, the most impressive team is Kildress,” he observed.
“If I was talking up any team to win the Championship, it would be them but they have a hard opening game against Derrytresk.
“Aghaloo are going very well, but it’s the thing that if they have the league tied up, which they very nearly have, does it take a bit of the hunger away from them?
“Is there a wee bit of hunger gone? Now, I’m sure Mickey Donnelly will have aspirations of doing the double – winning the league and the Championship – but do the players have the same hunger when they know they are already promoted?”
Regardless of Aghaloo’s mindset ahead of their opening Junior Championship encounter, Corry believes winning that particular title isn’t as tough as annexing the league crown.
“Everyone goes on about how hard it is to win a Championship, but being realistic it’s probably harder to win the league,” he explained.
“You have to raise your game four times to win the Championship, but to win the league you have to raise it all the time.
“You have to get it right on four occasions and if you can do that, you’re on a winner!”
While that plan sounds easy in theory, Corry knows it’s much more difficult to put into practice and as such, he’s not looking any further than his side’s opener against Clann na nGael.
“We have a fairly young team, but we have a couple of experienced heads within it. They are improving game after game,” he acknowledged.
“Anyone can win a Championship, it takes good teams to get to finals, but the first thing is to beat Clann na nGael.
“We’re really only looking at one game at a time. You try to get past the first one, then you look at the draw and see who you face.
“Because we don’t know who we will face, we’re just focusing on the first game and the first round.”
And that focus is based on enjoyment. Corry wants his young side to savour the special excitement only a derby can generate and because Glenelly defeated their north Tyrone neighbours 1-09 to 0-15 away from home in the league earlier this term, he hopes his players will take confidence into the occasion.
However, he is more than aware that his Plumbridge-based outfit will face a different Clann na nGael side this time around.
“You have to enjoy occasions like this, local derbies,” he stressed.
“The league and championship are slightly different games because everyone raises their game for the Championship, but yes, the win over Clann na nGael earlier in the season should give the players a wee bit of belief that they can beat them.
“However, Clann na nGael have changed managers since then, which has seemed to spur them on and they have some players back, who didn’t play against us. They seem to have a new impetus and they had a big result against Brocagh [a 1-17 to 1-12 league win on Sunday past when Glenelly defeated Drumquin 0-09 to 1-14] and I’m sure they’ll be on a bit of a high.
“But we’ve had a couple of wins ourselves and the feel good factor is in the team, but form goes out the window in derby games.
“Derby games are about parish versus parish and about who wants it the most, that’s what it’s going to boil down to.”