Tyrone minor manager Mickey Harte plays down favourites tag against Down
THIS Sunday's preliminary round Ulster Minor Championship match pits the champions Tyrone, many people's tip for All-Ireland victory, against a Down side rejuvenated by Hogan Cup success.
Ulster minor league champions Tyrone, retaining nearly half of last year's final side and half of this year's All-Ireland Vocational winning side, are at first sight natural favourites.
However, manager Mickey Harte, who played in the Tyrone minors himself in the early ‘70s, advises against facile assumptions on this basis: “There is an expectation among people that this team should do well, but there is no basis for that judgment in fact.”
Down's manager Gerry Dougherty, who has had to cope with delays and absences in preparation, is now boosted by the return of five Hogan Cup winning players to Sunday's team.
But Dougherty has had little time with a full unit together, yet knows that there is enough potential in the squad to pull off an upset: “They have to go in as clear favourites, but if our players play to their capacity and we get the rub of the green, I think we could spring a surprise.”
Tyrone: P McConnell (Newtonstewart), G Devlin (Arboe), M McGee (Loughmacrory), F Loughran (Kildress), C Meenagh (Loughmacrory), B McGuigan (Arboe), P O'Neill (Gortin), C McAnallen (Eglish), K Hughes (Kileeshil), G Wylie (Arboe), D O'Hanlon (Errigal Ciaran), S O'Neill (Clann na nGael), A Lynch (Castlederg), E McGinley (Errigal Ciaran), D Kelly (Kildress).
Down: C Sloan (Rostrevor), B Kearney (Warrenpoint), M Feeney (Banbridge), C McCrickard (Liatroim), C Boyle (Castlewellan), A O'Prey (Liatroim), L Doyle (Liatroim), C Ferris (Bryansford), A Carville (Bryansford), K Oakes (capt, Downpatrick), C McCoy (Newry Shamrocks), PJ McAlinden (Burren), C Savage (Ballykinlar), A Fegan (Annaclone), A Devlin (Kilcoo).
Subs: J Kane (Kilcoo), D Rafferty (Shamrocks), P Hanna (Ballykinlar), J Turley (Killyleagh), M Doran (Longstone), E Magee (Rostrevor), K Polly (Kilclief), J Fegan (Clonduff).
European U18 Championship qualifiers: Republic of Ireland 2 Greece 0 (Ireland qualify 3-0 on aggregate)
BRIAN Kerr's Republic of Ireland U18 squad capped off a fantastic week for the Dubliner by reaching the European U18 championships with an emphatic 2-0 victory over Greece at Tolka Park last night.
A somewhat dull game brightened up in the final quarter when substitute Sheffield Wednesday's Alan Quinn knocked in a goal to give the Irish a 2-0 aggregate lead, adding to Ronnie O'Brien's goal in Greece at the end of March in the first leg.
Greek misery was compounded in the very final act of the game when one of their defenders put the ball through his own net to give the Irish a 2-0 win, 3-0 on aggregate and qualification for the European championships in Cyprus in July.
BELFAST southpaw Brian Magee goes into battle for Ireland at the European Senior Championships in Belarus next week determined to make up for the biggest disappointment of his boxing.
“Hopefully I can get into the final European medal stages, get in there fighting for gold,” Magee said last night.
“It will go a long way in wiping out the disappointment I felt when I went out on the first round of the World Championships in Budapest last year.”
Ireland's medal haul at that level of World senior competition is slim with Belfast light heavy Steven Kirk only the fourth Irishman to reach the award stages in Hungary last October.
But Magee, a 22-year-old Holy Trinity star, is an exceptionally gifted boxer, pound for pound tops at home, with Britain's national sides offering nothing to compare.
Ireland will send a three-man squad to the Euro event and they have just completed intensive training preparations under Irish coach Harry Hawkins at the Holy Trinity gym in west Belfast.
Irish hopes in the bantamweight division rest on reigning national champions Bernard Dunne CIE) and Dundalk lightweight Eugene McEneaney.