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Holmes will take his lead from Harte in title drive


Title target: Minor boss Collie Holmes (right) during his time under the baton of Mickey Harte
Title target: Minor boss Collie Holmes (right) during his time under the baton of Mickey Harte
John Campbell

By John Campbell

If you have known tough, hard times, it can become easier to appreciate life when the path to potential success is smoothed.

When current Tyrone minor football boss Collie Holmes was a member of the county minor panel in the early '90s, training was undertaken against a sharply contrasting backdrop to the state of the art facilities that have established the Garvaghey Centre of Excellence as a template for every other county with designs on success.

"When I was in the minor squad, we used to train under lights from cars or generators, there weren't the expert medical facilities available nor were there the dietary considerations which are so much a part of football nowadays," revealed Homes.

"You were borrowing pitches on which to play challenge matches, you were at the mercy of clubs.

"But even in those days, these things did not worry our manager Mickey Harte. He just got on with it and when we won the Ulster title in 1993, I didn't hear anyone complaining!"

Holmes was to go on to land three All-Ireland senior medals as a member of Harte's all-conquering squads in 2003, 2005 and 2008 and now the duo find themselves entrusted with the task of sourcing and nurturing a new generation of Red Hands talent.

"It just shows you Mickey's commitment to Tyrone. Here is a man who has done it all, has nothing to prove, and yet he is putting his shoulder to the wheel with the Under-14 squad. You can't ask for greater enthusiasm or county loyalty than that," stated Holmes.

As he prepares for Saturday's Ulster Minor Football Championship clash with Donegal, Holmes has reason to be grateful for what he believes are the "excellent systems" in Tyrone which have helped to fashion so many outstanding players particularly since the onset of the Noughties.

Tyrone have not only been a major force at provincial and All-Ireland senior level, but they have won seven Ulster Minor Championship titles since the dawn of the new millennium.

"You could say this sets the bar for the present side," smiled Holmes, who hails from Moy but played much of his club football with Armagh Harps whom he captained. "But then Tyrone have expectations every year.

"We have just won the Ulster minor league but now we must challenge ourselves by trying to go on and win the provincial Championship.

"Club football, even at minor level in Tyrone, is of a very high standard.

"The Academy set-up within the county is running well and this means there is a structured approach to under-age football. There are excellent systems within the county."

Holmes believes that the work undertaken by coaches in the Under-14 and Under-16 sectors can help to make his own job that little bit easier.

"Mickey Harte was always a pioneer of coaching and now we as a minor management team are in charge of players who have come through at those levels," explained Holmes. "When Mickey was minor team boss, he had to do everything - maybe just stopping short of washing the jerseys!

"I have a seven-man team behind me with definitive roles and that's another indication of how things have moved on."

Tyrone, though, have to go back to 2012 for their last Ulster title when they beat Monaghan.

"We have to accept other counties have been making progress, reflected in their successes," pointed out Holmes.

"Kerry have been the major force at minor level and they have set standards which the rest of us must try to attain. But let's just say we in Tyrone are relishing the challenge right now."

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