They haven’t just the usual factors to deal with, such as the strength of their opponents, the scourge of injuries or, crucially, the appetite of their own players to attempt another climb for glory.
If holders Tourlestrane are to retain the Owen B Hunt Cup and, in doing so, become the first club in over 20 years to successful defend its title, they will also have to take on the challenge of time itself.
The Belfry Senior Championship begins this weekend (May 18-20) with round one fixtures taking place in each of the six-team sections, Group One and Group Two.
Tourlestrane commence their campaign on Sunday evening when they face neighbours Curry at Tubbercurry’s Kilcoyne Park (6.30pm). If Neil Egan’s charges get through their five group games, the knockout stages and go on to contest the 2012 final, on Sunday, October 7, they’ll have been in ‘championship’ mode for four months.
Even if they are in action for only, at the minimum, seven weekends prior to the Markievicz Park showdown, 20 weeks is a lengthy spell to keep the kettle on the boil.
Egan is aware that players’ fitness levels will have to be tweaked to accommodate spells of inactivity (in championship terms), even if Sligo Football Senior League games will take place without inter-county players.
Also to be accounted for are Sligo’s fortunes, either via the GAA Football Connacht Senior Championship or Qualifiers, while any county Minors are excused from club duty until after their Connacht date with Mayo.
Those in Second Level or Third Level education with exam commitments also have to be catered for. To further hamper plans is the stark reality that for some players, especially the ones who complete their Third Level exams, working abroad is the only option if employment can’t be sourced locally or in Ireland.
Still, considering all of the above, and even the fact that they’ve to face three fellow south Sligo teams in Group Two as well as St John’s, Egan can harvest the squad’s experience of big game situations.
Indeed, in recent years they’ve only been caught short of retaining the title at the last hurdle, having contested the last three county finals (2009, 2010 and 2011), winning two. A lot of their players were part of the triumphs in 2004 and 2007.
While Gerry McGowan, David Durkin and Eamonn O’Hara represent the team’s old guard, last year’s Minor team, Sligo Minor ‘B’ champions, has helped rejuvenate the panel.
It is likely that Brian Kennedy and the aforementioned O’Hara will miss Sunday’s date with Curry because of injury, although Alan Dunne is expected to be back after spending time working in America.
“We have to hold the players’ fitness levels and then hope they can peak at different times. We improved last year with each game and, obviously, we ended up winning [the final] so we’ll look for a similar improvement this year,” Egan maintained.
“Because the rounds are spaced the way they are we can only take each game as it comes and we’ll be happy to get out of the group and that means at least finishing in the top three.”
“The competition structure is a big ask for clubs and it will be hard to predict because things could change a lot from round to round before the quarter-finals.”