Steelstown entertain Tyrone champions

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WITH an historic first season at senior level fast approaching, Steelstown Brian Ogs get a taste of what to expect this Sunday when they entertain Tyrone County champions, Dromore, in an intriguing Ulster League clash at Celtic Park on Sunday (throw-in 2.00pm).

Michael Wilson reports

Hugh McGrath’s men have yet to win in three outings in the pre-season competition but the Steelstown manager is more than happy with the progress being made as his players build fitness ahead of the Derry league.

Performances rather than results are key at this stage of the season but the Steelstown manager admitted his players had picked out Sunday’s fixture as one to look forward to.

“It’s not everyday you have the Tyrone senior county champions playing in your own backyard,” explained McGrath, “In fact I don’t think we have ever met a reigning senior championship winning team but we have no great respect for reputations. We will respect our opponent, as we always do, but try to play our normal game.

“The Ulster League is about preparation and the game against Dromore will give a good indication of where we’re at. I think so far we have used something like 28 players over the three games.”

Having already met Castleblayney, Moortown and Killybegs, the Co. Down man said his players were enjoying the new experience.

“For us it is about the players getting used to how much quicker and harder senior football is but we’ve never been overawed in the past and we won’t be now. We play our own style, we know what we do well and want to continue doing that. Dromore will be treating the game the same as us. The Ulster League is about preparation for the new season, results don’t really matter but it is nice to see a team of Dromore’s stature coming to the city.”

Much has been made of the absence of key forward Stephen Cleary who is in Amsterdam on a six-month internship with Adidas though the Steelstown manager said he is confident other players will step up.

“We’ve done okay in the games against Castleblayney, Moortown and Killybegs and have had a few players pushing their cases well. When you consider the likes of Killybegs were Donegal champions a few seasons back it’s a good sign. None of the players have looked out of place even though we‘ve been playing without the likes of Neil Forrester, Stephen Cleary and Darren McDaid.

“People keep talking about Stephen being away but that means others must step up. Mark Brennan for example has looked very sharp and is itching to make the step up. He is a fantastic prospect and is getting stronger all the time. Shane O’Connor is another. He’s probably been our best player in the opening games and that competition is what you want.

“Things have gone well but Sunday is still about performance. That said, we would certainly take a win against the Tyrone champions if we got it.”