Ulster U-20 Football Championship quarter-final
Tyrone v Down
Saturday, Loughmacrory, 1pm
By Niall Gartland
TYRONE u-20 manager Paul Devlin has consistently preached the importance of preparing players for the possibility of stepping up to the senior team since his tenure began, so he was delighted to see a number of his former players pick up All-Ireland medals last season.
Senior players like Darragh Canavan, Brian Kennedy, Cormac Munroe, Conor Shields and Lorcan Quinn have all followed the pathway laid out to them at underage level, so while success at national level has eluded the u-20 team, Devlin’s tenure has gone particularly well from a developmental perspective.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Ulster Championship quarter-final clash against reigning champions Down, he reiterated the importance of ensuring a smooth transition to the senior panel.
“It’s about developing these lads to be senior footballers. You see the facilities here in Garvaghey, and how often do they want to come here and commit themselves to that type of lifestyle.
“We have seen in the senior panel already there have been four of five drop-offs of lads who feel they have achieved their goal.
“It’s about having the next batch of lads who are ready to step in there. That’s the main goal for ourselves.”
He continued: “Yes, we want to win silverware along the way, you want to be at the top of the podium all the time if you can possibly be there.
“It’s a great feeling for the people, for the lads and their families, but the main goal for the lads is stepping forward to senior status.”
The Red Hands claimed back-to-back Ulster U-20 Championships in 2019 and 2020, but they fell short at the first hurdle against Donegal last year.
In the meantime, Devlin has added Tyrone legend Owen Mulligan to the backroom team while Dermot Carlin is still involved.
They lost out, again, to Donegal in this year’s pre-season competition (the Leo Murphy Cup) but they have some really promising players in their ranks like captain Niall Devlin (Coalisland’s footballer of the year), vice-captain Ruairi Canavan (who will still be eligible for the u-20 team next year), Clogher’s Ciaran Bogue, Trillick’s Seanie O’Donnell and more.
Commenting on their somewhat disappointing loss to Donegal in the Leo Murphy final, Devlin, who is in his fifth season at the helm, said: “The good thing about the Leo Murphy competition is that it gives you an opportunity to look at lads and see them in competitive games.
“We had good performances and poor performances, and we have been able to see who is performing and who is going to be up to it come championship time.
“The Development Competition was very important in that way.”
He also wonders whether getting the chance to have a look at their opponents Down in their 2-13 to 0-7 preliminary round victory over Fermanagh on Friday night in Newry, is really that much of an advantage.
“It might be an advantage and it might not.
“Last year we went and saw Donegal, and felt we could get over the line, but they were a different team next day out.
“Down have that competitive game under their belt, and we have to adapt to that.”
READ MORE – Antrim football going in the right direction. Click here…
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