The bridging years: A look at the u-20/u-21 story of the Ulster counties

The Ulster U-20 Football Championship has kicked into action at the weekend. Michael McMullan looks back at the record of all nine counties down the years.

Tyrone (15)
Last title 2022

JUST like they are at minor level, Tyrone are top dogs in Ulster at u-21 level with the last of their 15 titles coming from their All-Ireland winning team of 2022.

Tyrone’s winning team of 1991 – including Adrian Cush and Peter Canavan – hammered Kerry in the final. A core of the team almost got their hands on Sam four years later. Ironically it was Canavan and Cush who had sons – Ruairi and Conor – on their winning team of two seasons ago, a team that has fingerprints over the current senior group.

Down (11)
Last title 2023

CONOR Laverty brought two Ulster titles in three seasons to get the Mourne County back on the map in terms of winning Ulster titles.

Players like Ryan Magill, Odhrán Murdock and Shealan Johnston have now made it to the senior team. The reigning champions come second only to Tyrone in the roll of honour but have to go back to 1979 for their only All-Ireland win, a team that had the recently deceased Dan McCartan as part of their management team.

Derry (8)
Last title 2018

FOR a county that has enjoyed a rich minor and MacRory Cup tradition, Derry only have a return of two All-Ireland’s at this grade. Their last winning team, in 1997, had players like Joe Cassidy, Enda Muldoon, Paul McFlynn and Johnny McBride in their ranks. The county’s recent record of appearing in seven of the last nine Ulster minor finals has yielded success at this level, including the inaugural Danny Murphy Cup in the first year it was played at u-20 level.

Donegal (8)
Last title 2017

DONEGAL have eight titles to their name but the 1982 All-Ireland winnings crop went on to have a significant say on the county’s history.

Matt Gallagher, Anthony Molloy, Donal Reid, Martin McHugh, Joyce McMullin and Martin Shovlin would help the county bring Sam to the hills for the first time 10 years later. More recently, the county were Ulster champions in 2017 with the backbone of a team Declan Bonner also steered to the All-Ireland minor final three years earlier.

Cavan (6)
Last title 2014

THE Breffni total was dominated by their golden generation that won a staggering four titles in a row from 2011 to 2014, a feature only Tyrone have to their name.

It was Niall Murray’s goal that saw them see off the Red Hands in 2011 with Darragh Sexton penalty the decisive scored in a similar 1-10 to 0-10 win over Tyrone 12 months later. Cavan saw off Donegal in their next two finals.

Donegal ended their hopes of a fifth successive title in 2015. Their last appearance in a final saw them run eventual All-Ireland champions Tyrone close in 2022.

Antrim (4)
Last title 1989

MANY will remember 1989 as the season the Antrim hurlers reached the All-Ireland final but the u-21 footballers beat Armagh, Tyrone and Down on the way to lifting the Ulster title before going down to a star-studded Cork side in the All-Ireland final.

Antrim’s 1969 success saw them go on to win their only ever All-Ireland title with captain Andy McCallin leading the charge.

Armagh (3)
Last title 2007

THE Orchard County have only appeared in four finals and have met Derry in three of them. It was Barry Duffy’s goal that proved the difference as Armagh won their first title at this grade in 1998, edging out All-Ireland champions Derry. The 2004 campaign saw Armagh go on to win their only All-Ireland with a team that included Ciaran McKeever, Andy Mallon and Aaron and Stephen Kernan. Their last team to reach the Ulster final,at u-20 level, in 2018, contained current senior players Rian O’Neill, Conor Turbitt, Ross McQuillan and Jason Duffy.

Fermanagh (3)
Last title 1994

THE last of Fermanagh’s three wins came in 1994 as they took out champions Derry in Healy Park. Under the management of Jim Carty, they were winners over Donegal and Tyrone on their way to the decider.

A goal from Mark O’Donnell after just 40 seconds set Fermanagh on their way to glory with Brian Maguire adding a second in a 2-8 to 0-8 provincial final win. It was a Fermanagh team led by players such as Raymond Gallagher, Tony Collins, Shane King and Neil Cox.

Monaghan (3)
Last title 2016

THE Farney County won the last of their three Ulster titles in 2016 and were last in the final in 2021. Like Cavan, Monaghan have never won the All-Ireland at this grade but are the only Ulster county never to have reached a final. Their last Ulster title came in 2016.

Of the team, Ryan McAnespie, Conor McCarthy and Dessie Ward are still doing the business but it was Barry McGinn’s six points that shot them to a 0-13 to 0-11 win.

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