Football

Tyrone minors will benefit from schools successes soon, says skipper

Paul McGinley leads his team into action this weekend against Down

Tyrone minor manager Gerard Donnelly
Tyrone minor manager Gerard Donnelly Tyrone minor manager Gerard Donnelly

The Tyrone minors have been paying a price for the success of the county’s schools, but captain Paul McGinley is confident the benefits will eventually outweigh the drawbacks.

Three Tyrone schools reached the MacRory Cup semi-finals, with Omagh CBS going all the way to Hogan Cup glory, leaving the county side short on personnel for the build-up to the Ulster league.

Omagh beat St Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon in the MacRory final, with Dungannon having beaten St Joseph’s, Donaghmore in the last four.

But the squad has been fully restored for the championship, and the skipper believes the Red Hands will see the benefits in the weeks ahead.

“It has been a bit mix and match with boys coming in and out, and at times having low enough numbers,” said McGinley.

“But those schools playing against each other in those competitions can strengthen the team.

“We know each other well, and when everybody comes back, we can combine all the talent and put it out on the pitch.

“But challenging each other only leads to good things down the road. We definitely have the talent.”

Despite the levels of absenteeism, Tyrone enjoyed a worthwhile league campaign, despite losing the shield final to Armagh.

“The league campaign was good. We had a tough group, with Derry, a very good team.”

Tyrone begin their championship campaign on Saturday with a home game against Down, followed by further round robin clashes with Donegal, Monaghan and Fermanagh.

“It will be nice to get it on our home patch and hopefully get the campaign off and running,” said St Ciaran’s Ballygawley student McGinley.

“It is a challenging group. There’s a couple of teams that we haven’t had a look at, and we’ll be looking forward to having a go at them and challenging ourselves.”

The Errigal Ciaran teenager was a member of last year’s squad, still troubled by memories of an agonising semi-final defeat to Monaghan.

With the sides deadlocked at 4-13 to 2-19 at the end of extra-time in Roslea, the Farney lads went through to the decider following a penalty shoot-out.

“It was a tough day to come away from, especially with so many chances, and getting to penalties,” he said.

“We thought we would have been fairly skilful at the penalties, but at that stage it’s just a lottery.

“But we’ll be looking to put it right this year and go a bit further.”

McGinley is determined to justify the trust placed in him by manager Gerard Donnelly’s decision to hand him the captaincy for 2024.

“I have known Gerry since last year and would have got on well with him, and it’s a great honour to be named captain, and hopefully I can serve him well this year.”

Round one

Saturday, April 6 (12pm unless stated)

Group A

Fermanagh v Donegal (Brewster Park)

Armagh v Antrim (Crossmaglen)

Group B

Derry v Cavan (Owenbeg, 1pm)

Tyrone v Down (Errigal Ciaran)