John Brennan factor can fire Cargin to title success
Cargin's Kevin O'Boyle insists that the 'John Brennan Factor' is the key driver in the Toome club's success so far this year, as they prepare to take on the might of Crossmaglen in this weekend's Ulster senior club Championship.
Brennan is still going strong as a manager, bridging a 15-year gap to the last time he won an Antrim title with the Loughshore men, when they beat Lamh Dearg in the final a fortnight ago.
It was also nine years since Cargin had won their county title, doing it the hard way by knocking out St Gall's in the earlier rounds.
Brennan has delivered Championship wins for Loup, Slaughtneil and Lavey in Derry, Carrickmore in Tyrone and Cargin in Antrim, so little wonder that schoolteacher O'Boyle holds a reverence for his evangelical work.
"John's come in this year, and when he comes in you buy into what he is doing. You know he is experienced. He's been there and he's done that," explains the corner-back.
"Everybody seemed to buy in, saying, 'John Brennan's here, we are going to do something.'
"That's the be-all and end-all. He is a man who wins Championships and we fully bought into that."
As the game has evolved, Brennan has taken a backseat with taking training sessions, instead instructing team trainers Darren Craig and Dualta Johnston what he wants from each session, and then choosing his moments to speak with players.
The caricature of Brennan as a firebrand on the sideline is far from the reality, O'Boyle insists.
"He's a fascinating character and not just the older men, but the younger men in the team sort of buy into this. A big thing about him this year is that everybody feels they have an opportunity. Whereas in the past we have had reduced panels for training, this year we have had 34 every single night."
However, he retains a ruthless streak in that he will do what he feels right for the team, as witnessed by the struggles of big-name players such as Tony Scullion and Kieran Close to make the starting line-up in the Championship ties this year.
"Every single player feels that they have an opportunity of playing football with him and getting game time," adds O'Boyle.
Meanwhile, a bout of sickness prevented Tyrone's All-Star hopeful Mattie Donnelly from training with his club Trillick this week, but he expects to be fully ready for tomorrow's Ulster club opener against Naomh Conaill in Ballybofey.
He also fully expects to be able to balance his club commitments with being available for Joe Kernan's Ireland team to play Australia on November 21.
"I want to play as much as a I can and do as much as I can, when I am fit to do it," the 24-year-old said. "At the moment, I am fit to meet those demands.
"I have some understanding managers who would always check in and see what my workload is and that helps too.
"Between me knowing my own body and looking after it, and having that communication with the managers, I would be fairly confident I will get through it with no ill-effects."
His father Liam was captain of the last Trillick team to win Tyrone in 1986 but they never won an Ulster.
"The fact Errigal Ciaran are the only side to have achieved that shows how hard it is," said Donnelly
Elsewhere, Slaughtneil continue their defence of their Ulster title when they face Scotstown in Clones while Kilcoo face Kingscourt Stars in Cavan.