Minor miracles


(Eight All-Ireland titles)

TYRONE are fourth in the overall leaderboard with a very impressive eight All-Ireland titles to their name (only Kerry, Cork and Dublin have fared better over the years). The Red Hands won their first All-Ireland titles in 1947 and 1948, and their winning run in 1998 laid the platform for their famous team of the noughties at senior level. Lining out in the 1998 final victory over Laois were none other than team captain Cormac McAnallen, Stephen O’Neill, Brian McGuigan, Gavin Devlin, Enda McGinley and Pascal McConnell. Another player on that team was Ciaran Meenagh, who is now in charge of the Derry senior footballers.

Manager, of course, was Mickey Harte, who led that crop through an unprecedented period of success for the Red Hand County, reaching the pinnacle in 2003, 2005 and 2008 and now widely recognised as one of the greatest teams of all time. Tyrone have continued to produce fine minor teams and won further All-Ireland titles in 2001, 2004, 2008 and 2010. Quite a few of their current senior team enjoyed great success at minor level including Mattie Donnelly, Peter Harte and Niall Sludden.



(Five All-Ireland titles)

DERRY are two steps away from claiming their sixth ever All-Ireland title when they take on Dublin in an eagerly anticipated semi-final clash this weekend. They’re the most recent county in Ulster to produce an All-Ireland winning team, producing a stirring finish in July 2021 against Kerry to claim the delayed 2020 crown. One of the stand-out players on that team was defender Eoin McEvoy, who earned praise for his mature performance in this year’s Ulster final victory over Armagh at senior level. The other years that they won all around them at minor level were 1965, 1983, 1989 and 2002.

Those two victories in the eighties laid the platform for their historic 1993 All-Ireland victory at senior level. The captain in 1989 was none other than Gary Coleman, son of Eamonn, who starred in the 1993 success. They added another All-Ireland in 2002, this time skippered by former senior star and present Gaelic Life columnist, Gerard O’Kane.



(Four All-Ireland titles)

FAMOUSLY, the Mourne County have won five All-Irelands at senior level and they haven’t fared badly at minor level either, winning titles at national level in 1977, 1987, 1999 and 2005. The 1987 team was managed by Down legend Pete McGrath, who took the step up to senior level and brought them to All-Ireland glory in 1991 and 1994. As an aside, well-known comedian and new host of The Late, Late Show Paddy Kielty was part of the 1987 panel. They won their most recent titles in 1999 and 2005 – in 1999 they did the business against Mayo in the final with 11 of the team going on to play senior football for Down. In 2005 they again got the better of poor Mayo and they had plenty of talent in their ranks that day including Marty Clarke, who starred in their run to the All-Ireland final in 2010 after a stint playing Aussie Rules Football.



(Two titles)

THE Breffni County have won two All-Ireland minor titles in their history but it was a long time ago at this stage. They won back-to-back titles in 1937 and 1938, a glorious period in general for Cavan football. Success has proved hard to come by in more recent times, but they did bag an Ulster title in 2011, their only provincial success at this level since 1974.



(Two titles)

THE Orchard County have also won two All-Ireland titles. Their first was all the way back in 1949, and the surprising thing is that members of that team played a role in their second ever victory in 2009. Members of the 1949 All-Ireland minor winning team Jack Bratton and Brendan O’Neill spoke to the Armagh side in the lead-up to their All-Ireland final against Mayo, a game they won by three points. There were quite a few of the current senior team playing that day, including Rory Grugan, who hit the winner against Galway at the weekend, Andrew Murnin and James Morgan. It remains their second ever title. Elsewhere in Ulster, Monaghan and Donegal have played in and lost one All-Ireland final each, while Antrim and Fermanagh have never made it to an All-Ireland minor final.

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