Tyrone aim to find right balance as they mix it with the best in this year’s tournament

County Tyrone are attempting to find the right balance as they aim to mix it with the best in this year’s SuperCupNI.

Tyrone were Junior Section Bowl winners in the 2023 edition of the SuperCupNI and Head Coach Chris Colhoun believes his side have competed well over the last few years in difficult groups.

He said: “The best way we have found is to work with the group you have available to play a way that will suit you the whole week.

“We had an extremely difficult draw last year.

“Actually, the last two years, we’ve been beaten by the eventual winners.

“The teams in our group last year all got to their respective finals.

“We went into the final day knowing we could finish in any of the four positions and just the way it worked out, we finished bottom.

Co Tyrone met USA outfit Northeast Rush at SuperCupNI 2023

“Everybody likes getting silverware and the players last year really enjoyed it.

“For us as a coaching team it just showed us how to use the squad and to keep going to the last day.

“The players were really excited, even with a medal at the end of the week, because there’s not too many players that have a SuperCupNI medal.”

Colhoun confirmed he had selected his side for the week-long tournament after a difficult selection process.

“So far preparations are good, a nice mix of a lot of clubs this year,” he said.

“The players are keen to learn so it’s been an excellent start to our preparations.

“I think we had 135 players signed up for the trials, which made selection extremely hard.

“We went through a normal process, and we had our squad selected quite early, around May time.

Co Tyrone met USA side Northeast Rush in the Premier Section at SuperCupNI 2023

“Some of the counties retained bigger squads for a while, but we selected our final 18 at the start of May, which allowed us to get our preparations underway.

“There was loads of quality so it was just about trying to find the right balance based on previous years in our experience.”

County Tyrone have been placed in a group with category one academy outfit Blackburn Rovers, fellow county side Antrim and DME Football Academy from America.

Colhoun knows this like previous years will be a tough test of his side’s resolve as they attempt to top the group.

He said: “We’ve got Antrim in the draw and over the years they have always been the strongest county because of the location.

“They’ve obviously got a great pool of players, but I suppose that’s the beauty of SuperCupNI.

“You get a wide range of teams to play against.

“We’re playing a bit of an unknown in a select American side to begin with.

“Finally, category one academies like Blackburn are great.

“It’s just brilliant experience for the players to play against these sorts of outfits.

“We’re working to get the lads up to that level.”

Tyrone’s Premier Section squad from SuperCupNI 2023

This is Colhoun and his coaching team’s third year managing the county side and he has learnt over these campaigns to take the tournament a day at a time.

“We’ve had three very different groups and three very different draws,” he said.

“You just never know.

“Obviously, you want to go out in the first day and have a positive result and still be in the mix to finish in that top spot.

“We finished top of the group two years ago and were rewarded with a semi-final against Manchester United at the Showgrounds.

“Last year we were still in the mix on the third day.

“It’s always an old cliché, but you can’t really get too far ahead of yourself at SuperCupNI.

“You want to go out and have a good, positive performance on the first day, and then you just take it as a comes because players can get knocks and niggles as the week goes on, so you just never know what you’re going to have on any particular day.”

With six of 2023’s squad playing for Tyrone’s Premier side this year, Colhoun knows the importance of the tournament for the development of local players.

He said: “Many players go into the SuperCupNI with the ambition of becoming a professional player.

“There is no bigger stage than SuperCupNI to do that in our country.

“Last year we’ve had guys getting trials and that, probably based on their experience last year.

“Some players have got a chance to step up into the international setup on the back of it.

“Even some players have got the chance to step up into higher age groups within their club since.”

Words from Stuart McCracken