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Tyrone U-20s have to avoid ‘playing the occasion’ says Ciaran Daly

ALL IRELAND U-20 CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL

Tyrone v Kildare

Saturday, Carrick-on-Shannon, 5pm

By Alan Rodgers

BIG days on the football field for their county have long been relished by the young players around Trillick.

Over the years the St Macartan’s have contributed richly to Tyrone success at every level. In 2022, Ciaran Daly is maintaining the tradition with a series of top quality displays at midfield for the Tyrone u-20s.

Now, as the All-Ireland final against Kildare beckons on Sunday, he’s relishing this latest opportunity to make a mark. It’s a game which presents the Red Hands with a chance to win a first All-Ireland title in the grade since 2015 and complete what has been a real roller-coaster season.

Victory over Kerry in the semi-final last week was sweet and it once again showed the resilience of this Tyrone team. Their wins over Down, Donegal and Cavan in Ulster all followed a similar path of seeing them come from behind to secure their progress.

“We knew from the start that this was a good Tyrone side, so we’re just delighted to be in the All-Ireland final now,” he said.

“Getting through Ulster is no easy task, and everybody is just happy that there’s the final to be prepared for. But the job isn’t done yet and the main thing is that we are there.

“The games are going that fast that you don’t have time to worry about what’s going on. If you switch off for those one of two seconds, then you’re going to be punished and that was the case when Kerry got their goal last Sunday. We felt sorry for ourselves and they got another two points immediately after.

“This is my first All-Ireland final. At the end of the day, we can’t be playing the occasion – it’s a game of football and we’ve played thousands of them. It’s class to be able to prepare for a final because they don’t come around that often.”

The progress being enjoyed by this Tyrone u-20 side has provided a welcome boost for the county in 2022. The efforts of the players have also earned a well-deserved progress for Paul Devlin, and perhaps eased the pain of two previous All-Ireland semi-final defeats in 2019 and 2020.

Now, though, Kildare beckon in the final. The Lilywhites defeated Dublin in the Leinster decider, before accounting for Sligo in the All-Ireland semi-final, which was also played last weekend. They are sure to be formidable opponents, and both Ciaran Daly and the rest of the Tyrone players and management will be under no illusions about what’s ahead of them.

“The opposition in Ulster and then against Kerry has always been tough this year. That has been way since the first round, but you have to improve in every game and that’s what we’ve been trying to do,” he added.

“It’s always going to get tougher and tougher as you go through the competition, and our job is to just dig deeper to get the results. We’re just delighted to be at this stage.

“Any team which gets to the All-Ireland final is going to be a good side and Kildare are going to be no different. They are going to be up for it – finals are for winning and we just want to get focused and get over the line.

“These games are coming week on week. When you’re playing games of football it doesn’t matter, especially when the weather is good and sunny and you’re playing on good pitches like what Portlaoise was against Kerry.

“This is the time of the year when you want to be playing football. As long as we’re going through to the next round, then we’ll take the games week on week.”

Back, then, to the Trillick club and alongside Daly, this Tyrone team also includes his clubmate,Sean O’Donnell. But for the moment, the club loyalties are set firmly to the one side in the quest to make the most of this golden opportunity for a first All-Ireland title at this grade since 2015.

“We are just delighted to be representing our county, and that goes for every other lad on the team. For a club like Trillick it’s great.

“Myself and Seanie have put the hard work in and it would be great to get over the line now next week and get the job done.”

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