OWEN Roes are hoping to stake their claim as the foremost team in North Tyrone, according to manager Barry Tracey.
It’s a big motivation for the team, and Tracey was happy enough to let the cat out of the bag ahead of today’s promotion play-off against Loughmacrory at Killyclogher.
The Glenmornan side haven’t played in the top-flight since 1982, but they’re primed to become the only North Tyrone team playing in Division One next season if they weave their way through the play-off series.
Tracey commented: “It was a goal within the club to be the top North Tyrone team, and it’d be undisputed if we end up in the top-flight.
“When the team started this journey, Strabane and Urney were in Division One and Aghyaran were heading there. You want North Tyrone to be competitive, but you also want to push on when you get there and compete with the very best in the county as well.”
Owen Roes could have rested on their laurels after winning the Division Three league title in 2017. They’d been hammering on the door for a few years, so the sense of relief was huge within the club, but they’ve kept up the good work and reached the semi-final of the Intermediate Championship this year whereupon they were beaten by Pomeroy (more on that later).
The likes of Tattyreagh have paved the way, even though they had a tough old time of it in Division One this year, and Tracey says Owen Roes are determined to reach the absolute limit of their potential.
“Tattyreagh’s journey has been amazing and I think this year will serve them well in the long-run. There’s no reason why they won’t be a force in Division Two next season.
“There has to be ownership from the players. The players do their gym work, follow the plan and there’s collective unity.
“Managers are just there to facilitate really, it’s up to the players to make the decisions on the field, they’re the ones who take it to the next level.”
The play-off series can sound convoluted, but it’s fairly simple when you break it down. Owen Roes took the first step with victory over Clogher at the weekend, and their match against Loughmacrory is a de facto semi-final with Eglish awaiting the victors. He’s not surprised that recently promoted Clogher also did well this season.
“Clogher obviously brought in Joe McMahon this year. They were one of the first teams I played against as Owen Roes manager and even though we won it was a real struggle and they ended up in the final of the championship. They’re really ruthless up front and I’m just glad we got through it.”
Owen Roes have lost their recent league matches against Loughmacrory, but they can take heart from a sterling second-half comeback earlier in the year even though they still fell short on a scoreline of 2-15 to 3-10.
“We’d been lining up another shot at Pomeroy, but that obviously changed with their win over Beragh.
“This group of players haven’t beaten Loughmacrory, and they were full value for their victory over us this year as we only really played for five minutes that day.
“People might wonder whether we’re ready for Division One, but when are you ever ‘ready’ for anything? Life can change in a split second so you have to push yourself as far as you can go.”
“There’s a saying in the club – the Roes are rising and that’s what they’re about. They eventually got their league title, reached the quarter-finals last season and stayed safe, and this year they’ve gone that bit further.
“It’s not a meteoric rise, it’s been a slow burner but they’re winning and they’re learning and that’s what’s important.”
Meanwhile, Newtownstewart are also in action this weekend in a play-off contest of a different sort. Having relegated a beleaguered Cookstown side on Sunday of last week, they must now take on Division Three team Killeeshil in their final play-off match. If Newtownstewart win, they’ll stay up, and if not, they’ll be relegated back to the bottom flight at the first time of asking.