There was a lot of work to be done when Kieran Holland was appointed Brackaville manager at the end of November last year, however the Killeeshil man has turned the Owen Roes fortunes around dramatically, writes Seamus Donnelly.
Brackaville’s form in the 2011 season left plenty of room for improvement.
Tenth placed of eighteen in the third tier of Tyrone football, the Owen Roes had crashed out of the championship at the first round stage to Aghaloo having beaten Glenelly in the preliminary round.
The Reds transformation this season has been dramatic, beaten only once in the league, Brackaville now face Armagh champions, An Port Mor, for a chance to be crowned Ulster Junior champions.
Holland attributes his sides success this season to a number of decisions taken early in his tenure.
“I sat down with Cahir [McGuinness] the team’s captain shortly after I got the job and we decided we were going to turn this team around. We put a big focus on discipline and fitness.
“I had a good squad of players to work with but they needed to knuckle down and work. We decided right from the outset that discipline would be important.
“We set down ground rules for the year and to be fair to the lads they’ve stuck to them well and they are reaping the results now.”
At the meeting with McGuinness, Holland and his captain devised a training programme for the team’s season and the grounding this early season training gave the team has stood to them throughout the course off a long season.
“When the team got together we decided that if we were the fittest team in the county then that would give us a fantastic start on other teams. We did a lot of work in the gym in January and the early part of February, be it on spin bikes or treadmills and then we moved training outside.
“We began our training at MUSA in Cookstown on the 4G pitch. I would like to thank chairman, Andrew Gillen and the committee for their support helping us get the training facilities and for their support throughout the year, they’ve been fantastic.
“At the start of the season people weren’t talking about Brackaville but after a couple of weeks we began to raise a few eyebrows. We’d a solid foundation built up during the winter and spring and the fellas started to buy in.”
Holland knows that Blackwatertown side An Port Mor will pose a stern test to his side: “We’ve seen a video and they look like a really well organised side. They’ve got Collie Holmes there and he’s been there and done it as a footballer.
“Reaching an Ulster final is a fantastic achievement for both sides and it’s unchartered territory for both teams, and for me.
“There’s no doubt this will be a stern test for us, probably the sternest we’ve met so far, so we’ll certainly be expecting our opponents.
“Our players certainly won’t fear the occasion. Their mental strength has been one of the most pleasing aspects of the team’s performances this season, they’ve refused to be beaten.
“The players have developed the winning habit. During the Ardoyne game they were poor in the first half, but we managed to sit them down at half time and get a performance out of them in the second half. They haven’t looked back since.”
Preparations for the Owen Roes have been going well in Stewartstown and they have no injury issues going into Sunday’s encounter with their Armagh neighbours.
Holland paid tribute to the Stewartstown club for their help and for the use of their facilities over the last couple of weeks.
“Stewartstown have been fantastic to us over the last couple of weeks allowing us to use their facilities. It really has been a great help.”
Two bright sparks for the Reds this year have been Rian McHugh and Che O’Donnell. The 17 year olds broke into the starting team at early in the season and have impressed greatly during their championship run.
Holland had nothing but praise for the duo and he hopes their achievements can earn them some more recognition.
“Both Rian and Che are young lads who have excelled since coming into the team.
“We took a few weeks to bring them into the side. Division 3 offers sides a great chance to blood young players and Rian and Che came in and took their chance.
“They both put in some great perfomances and I really believe they can have a big future for both Brackaville and Tyrone.”
Holland also paid tribute to his assistant manager, Stephen McHugh who along with the Killeeshil man has masterminded the Owen Roes path to the Ulster final.