Diarmaid McNulty: Tyrone ready for Kerry challenge in U20 final

The short turnaround from the semi-finals is not ideal for either side says the Omagh CBS coach

Omagh CBS' Diarmaid McNulty at the end of the 2023 Danske Bank Ulster Schools GAA MacRory Cup final at O'Neill Healy Park in Omagh between Holy Trinity Cookstown and Omagh CBS on 02-12-2023. Pic Philip Walsh
Diarmaid is part of the Tyrone U20s management team. Picture: Philip Walsh

TYRONE coach Diarmaid McNulty is looking forward to the challenge of ironing out flaws and imperfections that could cause problems in Sunday’s Eirgrid All-Ireland U20 final against Kerry.

The Red Hands recorded a convincing 10-point semi-final victory over Roscommon, but not without having to overcome a few setbacks along the way.

The manner in which they surrendered a seven-point lead to a resurgent Rossies side that bagged two quickfire goals is one area of concern.

“We know that we have to be better than we were to beat Kerry,” said McNulty.

“But it’s a nice way to go into a final, we have things to work on, and we want to sort out those wee chinks in our armour, and I’m really looking forward to getting on the training field with these boys this week and implementing a plan that will do the business on Sunday.”

An eight-day turnaround from last weekend’s semi-finals offers little time for either side to prepare for the Portlaoise decider.

But McNulty’s philosophical acceptance of the demands of the new GAA calendar suggests there are no objections from the Tyrone camp.

“The boys are really focused on wanting to recover well, and we started that immediately after the game,” he said.

“These young boys are just dying for football, and the momentum that you get from week-on-week football really stands to you.

“This is the way it is, our boys have bought into it, and if you had handed this to us last November when we were meeting for the first time, that we had to play two games of this importance eight days apart, we would have said yes.

“That’s the way that the calendar is and we’re just going to have to deal with it.

“It’s all about recovery and trying to get a couple of decent training sessions in, and hopefully we’ll be ready to rock on Sunday.”

The Omagh CBS boss is chasing his second All-Ireland title of the season, having guided the school to Hogan Cup triumph.

And he’s enjoying the fresh challenge that coaching at inter-county level presents.

“You realise the quality of player that you’re dealing with, and you’re probably coaching the small percentage elements more than the massive bits,” he said.

“It’s a great honour to be part of Paul Devlin’s management team.

“Paul is doing all the management, so you’re really focusing on getting your training sessions right and your coaching right.

“Me and Connor O’Donnell and Cathal McCarroll do most of the coaching, and we work well as a trio.

“We have great discussions about who takes what part, it’s a real collective and I’m genuinely just delighted to be a part of it.

“At the end of the day, we want to develop young men and young players to become senior inter-county footballers for Tyrone.

“We have got a cracking group, and you just want as many of them as possible to go on and represent our senior team with great pride and distinction.

“And it’s nice if they can go there with medals in their back pocket.”

Kerry will ask more questions of the Ulster champions than Roscommon did.

But McNulty is confident the players have the maturity and the belief to find the answers.

“I think that comes from the way we have trained. Our whole squad has been pushing each other really hard and the intensity at training was replicated in terms of our players being ready to play at the top level,” he said.

“They never get a break at training, and if you don’t get a break at training, you’re going to be prepared to have knocks and backs and training and get up again.

“It’s a team of leaders. Mickey Rafferty is the captain, and a fine leader he is. But there’s leaders in every line, everyone pushing hard and it’s a sign of real development as young men, really showing that they want to put Tyrone on the map again.”