Donnelly hopes former charges complete All-Ireland u-20 bid

By Michael McMullan

TYRONE minor manager Gerard Donnelly will be a more interested spectator than most for the Red Hands’ All-Ireland u-20 final against Kerry on Sunday.

While he leads the current minor group into semi-final action against Derry on Saturday, he will have coached virtually the entire u-20 group.

There are “lots of rewards” from being involved at minor level and Donnelly looks forward to seeing how the players progress when they move up the grades.

“You get to see lads grow and you get to build bonds with wee lads that you hope would stay on for a while as well,” said Donnelly who steered Tyrone to Ulster minor glory in 2021 and 2022 with the first group a kick of the ball away from winning the All-Ireland.

“It’s just brilliant to be seeing them get on ahead. You like short term success and if you can (win at minor level) it’s great.

Ultimately, if these lads win the u-20 (All-Ireland) on Sunday, it’s a brilliant day for us as well as the minor managers to see them get on and actually winning the All-Ireland and having their success with Tyrone. Then, ultimately, you want to see them play for the seniors.”

As minors, the current u-20 group swept aside all in their path before coming up short, by a point, against Meath in the final at Croke Park.

A hallmark of the u-20s under Paul Devlin has been how they’ve had to dig deep against Down and Derry in the group stages. There was a semi-final battle with Monaghan before needing extra-time and penalties against Derry in the final.

“Look, the Derry final was brilliant; Derry would have done the exact same to Roscommon (in the All-Ireland semi-final) in my eyes.”

Looking ahead to Sunday and Kerry, Donnelly points to the fact the Kingdom were nipped by Cork in the Munster semi-final as minors in 2021.

With the straight knock-out format, it was the end of the line.

“They’ve done well to get where they are so it’ll be a real good game but look, please God the lads will get over the line,” Donnelly concluded,

“Hopefully they’ll take the hurt from three years ago and not leave this one behind them but I fully expect the lads to win it and I hope they do and it would be great to see that bit of success.”

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