By Alan Rodgers
MUCH has been made this year about how the Tyrone u-20 team contains a number of players whose fathers starred for the county at senior level in the 1990s.
Among them, of course, are sons of Mattie McGleenan, Peter Canavan and, of course, Adrian Cush. But the young players themselves are forging their own paths with impressive performances as the team’s bid for All-Ireland glory reaches its climax.
Conor Cush is one of a new generation of Donaghmore players making strides at club and county level. His determination and score-taking have been key qualities so far in 2022, not least in last weekend’s All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry.
“This is only my first All-Ireland and it’s great to be in it,” remarked Conor, whose father, Adrian, was a member of the Tyrone team which made the breakthrough at u-21 level back in 1991.
“I’ll get talking to him (Adrian) over the week and he’ll tell me what to do. It’s great to be playing games so regularly, but it’s all about making sure that you use the time between them well.
“We need to get the recovery sorted out, the physios are there to help out. No matter what we’ll be well prepared.”
Much of that preparation, of course, can be attributed to the efforts of the team management and in particular Paul Devlin, Owen Mulligan and Dermot Carlin. The three represented the county with distinction during their own individual careers and are now using that knowledge to good effect with this talented u-20 side.
“The three of them are great, always keeping us going and never negative,” added Conor.
“’Mugsy’ especially for the forwards tells us what to do. It helps us on a lot.
“Our win over Kerry was a good boost. We knew from the seniors the previous week that we needed to do something for the county. It was about working hard to get the result.
“We’ve got a good few players coming through and coming from Donaghmore it’s great to have players coming through as well. There’s eight or nine on the minor panel and a couple on the u-16 squad also. They’re doing well which is good.”
Of course, when the dust settles and their careers move on in new directions, the players on this Tyrone u-20 team will remember the good days no matter what the outcome is against Kildare.
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime journey for them at this level and young Cush for one is enjoying the the buzz of now preparing for the All-Ireland final.
“I’ve been enjoying the football all the way through from the first round,” he remarked. “It’s about taking every game as it comes and seeing how it goes.
“We’re all fit, the physios are getting us ready for every game if there’s any problems. The turnout of supporters is great. This is a special time for us and we’ll get the buzz even though there’s only six days before the final. There’s always a few nerves before these matches. You step out onto the pitch and hear the national anthem there’s a few butterflies. But it’s grand once you get started.
“I saw Kildare playing in the Leinster final against Dublin. They definitely seem good, but we’ll be ready for them.”
One thing for certain is that come Saturday even Conor Cush is set to have another major role as Tyrone aim for a sixth All-Ireland title at this level.