BY RYAN FERRY
FORMER Donegal County Minor manager Stephen Friel has returned to club management after taking over the reins of Red Hughs.
Friel, who had a very successful stint in charge of Naomh Colmcille before taking over the minors in 2012, replaces former Tyrone player John Lynch as Red Hughs manager and he is looking forward to getting back into club management.
“It’s good to be back involved with club football again and I’m looking forward to the challenge. Red Hughs are a good young side, and we’re looking to consolidate our position in Division 3 and then build towards the future,” said Friel.
Red Hughs defeated Carndonagh in the Division 3 Relegation play-off in October to stay in the league, but they showed their ability by defeating the two teams who won promotion, St Naul’s and Fanad Gaels. Friel expects Division 3 to be very competitive again this year.
“There are a lot of seasoned teams like Glen, Aodh Ruadh and Buncrana in Division 3, clubs with storied and decorated histories, but everyone is equal at this time of the year. Each club has their own aspirations, and I think it will be a real dogfight this year.
“I know Red Hughs have a lot of young talented players. I would have seen a lot of them when I was minor manager, and I would have worked with the likes of Gary Kelly, Colm Melaugh and Luke Kelly, who are players I hold in high regard. It is an attractive job.”
Friel did a remarkable job in charge of Naomh Colmcille guiding them from the doldrums of Division 4 to Junior championship glory in 2010. They are now in the third tier of the All County League, and Red Hughs will face them at least twice next year.
“It will be slightly strange going back, I suppose. I have fond memories of my time with Naomh Colmcille and I made a lot of friends there. It will be strange going into the opposition dugout, but we’ll just get on with it.”
The Derry native’s period in charge of the county minors ended in disappointment, when Donegal were knocked out of the minor championship by Tyrone, on a day in which Friel’s team kicked 18 wides.
And while he was reluctant to say if he had improved as a manager due to his involvement with the minors, he certainly doesn’t feel that is has harmed his managerial credentials.
“The minor job was very different. I don’t feel I have regressed as a manager. I suppose in club football, you have a longer season, whereas with the minors really it just comes down to how you do in the championship, and unfortunately we were knocked out in the first round this year.”
Meanwhile, All County League Division 1 champions St Eunan’s are seeking applications for a new manager, while St Michael’s are also on the lookout for a replacement for Charlie McLaughlin.
Fanad Gaels, Glenfin, Naomh Muire and St Naul’s are all managerless at the minute, and are seeking applicants for their vacant posts.