Eoin braced for Kingdom test

By Niall Gartland

EOIN McElholm delivered a devastating attacking display against Roscommon last weekend, and he’s hoping to savour that winning feeling once more in Sunday’s All-Ireland U20 showdown against Kerry.

The Loughmacrory lad has already played in plenty of high-profile matches in his burgeoning career, captaining Omagh CBS to last year’s Hogan Cup title with victory over Summerhill College at Croke Park.

But he also knows what it’s like to lose, and the memories of Tyrone’s All-Ireland minor final defeat to Meath in 2021 still linger.

Speaking after delivering a Man of the Match performance against Roscommon, Eoin said: “It’s great to get back to the final, especially after losing to Meath in the All-Ireland final three years ago with the same group of players. There’s still hurt from that game and hopefully that’ll push us on to put in a good performance.”

There was almost an expectation that Meath would come through the other side of the draw, but they came out on the losing side against Kerry last weekend. Put two and two together and Kerry must have something about them.

“Kerry must have a damn good side to get the better of Meath, given what Meath did to us a couple of years ago,”he continued.

“We played Kerry in a challenge game but it wasn’t really the same side, we were missing boys and they were missing boys. It should be a good contest, Tyrone and Kerry games usually are.”

Linking in with the squad this year was Diarmaid McNulty, who has helped lead Omagh CBS to back-to-back MacRory and Hogan Cup titles. Eoin knew the man before he joined the U-20s, and his presence has certainly been an asset.

“Diarmaid coming in has definitely helped. He worked with all the Omagh CBS boys on the panel so he knows us inside out, and he’s such a brilliant knowledge of Tyrone football.

“I have to give credit to Paul [Devlin] and the rest of the lads as well. Paul has been there for quite a few years now and he’s brought the U20s back to another All-Ireland final, it’s a great reflection of him.”

Tyrone played plenty of brilliant football en route to a 3-18 to 3-8 victory over Roscommon, but McElholm also acknowledges that it wasn’t the perfect performance given the concession of the three goals.

“There were definitely plenty of positives but any team that wants to win the All-Ireland has to look at the negatives. Conceding three goals against Kerry wouldn’t cut it and we need to take collective responsibility for that. We’ll just have to get back on the training ground and work hard on those areas we can improve on.”

And on the team’s character to bounce back from the concession of two goals early in the second-half, Eoin added: “We were up by seven and they brought it back to a point. I suppose it could’ve gone either way at that point but deep down I thought our boys would push us over the line, as we’d been in that position before and got through it.”

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