Tyrone ready for Monaghan in the Electric Ireland Ulster Minor football final
MINOR matters often produce major moments and Tyrone captain Niall Devlin has already had a few of those this season.
They haven’t all been positive for the Coalisland defender, but he has said that both the good and the bad have shaped his character heading into Sunday’s Electric Ireland Ulster Minor Football Championship final against Monaghan at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh.
The good has undoubtedly been the run to the decider.
Wins over Donegal, Down and Derry, with a loss to Monaghan crammed in there too, have brought Collie Holmes’s Tyrone to their first provincial final since they lost to the same opposition in 2013.
“There has been some excitement around the squad this week,” said Devlin.
“We can’t wait to get at it, it’s some venue to play at. I’ve only played here once before and that was the semi-final against Derry.
“There are a lot of boys throughout the squad who have played here quite a bit, Michael McGleenan is probably sick of the sight of the place.
“McGleenan is one of the big men on the squad but there’s a lot of versatility there. You have him and Shay Gallagher and then you have the speedy men, the shooters; the tacklers. We feel we a have a bit of everything in the squad.
“We come into this game knowing that Monaghan are a great side though.
“This will be the third time we’ve played them this year. We beat them in the league final and we played well in extra-time. Then we played them up in Carrickmore in the Championship and we were as flat as you could be.
“That was maybe a hidden blessing, we got the heads up again in training and we managed to get the belief going again with some wins.”
It hasn’t been plain sailing for Devlin. The loss to Monaghan was hard to take, as was his red card in the Qualifier round three victory over Down.
But Devlin was full of praise for Holmes and his management team, and he feels their influence has been critical in their progression to this stage.
“This is my first year working with Collie and he has been absolutely class,” he said.
“He’s probably one of the best managers I have had and the experience he has, winning All-Irelands with Tyrone, has been such a help.
“You have the rest of the management team there, Ryan Daly, Conall Lavery, Conleth Donnelly, Aaron Grugan. They’ve all pushed us on so much.”
The player also said that not only was he proud to be representing his county in an Ulster final this weekend, but his home club too.
“Coalisland is just a big footballing town,” he said.
“It’s all about football and getting the Senior Championship back to the club last year was great.
“There are three boys on the panel this year (Devlin, Fintan Coney and Ruairi Campbell), which is maybe the most there has been in a good while so everyone is keeping watch.
“The future is bright for our club. All you need is one or two players coming up every year and we have that ability.”
Final opponents Monaghan have recorded good wins against Down, Antrim and Donegal.
Throughout those games Monaghan have shown the class that saw them crowned Ulster champions last year.
Their attacking threat from the impressive Darragh Dempsey, Karl Gallagher and captain Jason Irwin has been of particular note.
Liam McDonald has also been impressive at corner forward and Monaghan will be hoping he can repeat his display the last time these two met when he found the back of the Tyrone net.
Overall, it has been yet another dramatic journey through the Electric Ireland Ulster Minor Football Championship which culminates now in a Major moment for these young players as they focus and prepare for the Ulster final.
To encourage the Major spirit of the Minor Championships, Electric Ireland will have a mobile barber on-site so that travelling spectators can get their own ‘Championship Haircut’ at the ground and celebrate this pre-game ritual.
The final itself will take place in the Armagh Athletic Grounds on Sunday July 14, throw-in at 4pm.
Previous final meetings
2001: Tyrone 2-13 Monaghan 0-13
Stephen Gollogly’s brilliant goal-saving block saw Monaghan defeat Cavan in the semi-final but they were always going to be massive underdogs against Tyrone. The Red Hands had eased past Derry in the semi-final but they found it much more difficult in the final. Goals in either half proved the difference though as Tyrone won out by six points. The Red Hands would go onto win the All-Ireland after beating Dublin in a final replay.
2008: Tyrone 0-13 Monaghan 0-8
Another Ulster title that was converted into All-Ireland honours for Tyrone as they defeated Monaghan by five points in the provincial decider. Conor O’Neill’s frees and a few efforts from play from Kyle Coney helped Tyrone into a 0-6 to 0-4 interval lead before Mark Connolly and Declan Farrell led a Farney fightback in the third quarter. Tyrone finished the stronger though even though Coney missed a late penalty.
2012: Tyrone 0-14 Monaghan 1-8
Monaghan’s long wait for an Ulster title was extended as Tyrone hit five points without reply in the second half, which ultimately proved decisive. Conor McCarthy’s goal left Monaghan just a point behind at the break, 1-4 to 0-8, but points from Mark Bradley, James McGahan and Michael Cassidy swung the momentum Tyrone’s way and they could have had a late goal too only for Conor Forde to deny Ruairi McGlone.
2013: Monaghan 4-10 Tyrone 2-14
Monaghan ended a 68-year wait for an Ulster title as their brilliant comeback capped off a super final. Tyrone led 1-9 to 2-1 at half-time with Conor McKenna grabbing their goal while Fearghal McMahon and Barry McGinn were on target for Monaghan. Ruairi McGlone’s three-pointer had the Red Hands eight ahead entering the final quarter but a stirring Farney finish, including further goals from McGinn and McMahon (penalty), sealed victory.