Tyrone U20 coach Dermot Carlin hails schools' contribution to county's underage success

TYRONE U20 coach Dermot Carlin says he’s indebted to the county’s schools for the contribution they make to inter-county success.

All three Ulster Colleges U19 titles, along with two All-Ireland crowns, went to Tyrone seats of learning this year in a clean sweep that highlighted the depth of underage talent in the county.

Many of those title winners will join a handful of top class university players as the Red Hands begin the defence of their Ulster and All-Ireland U20 crowns next week.

“The schools put in massive work, and as a result myself and Paul and Mugsy get the enjoyment of working with the top class footballers that are there, and you have them in abundance,” said Carlin, now in his sixth season along with boss Paul Devlin in a management team strengthened by the arrival of Owen Mulligan last year.

“But it’s really down to the schools and the clubs. They have built the players and given them to us at 18, 19, 20 years of age for us to utilise.”

With seven of last year’s starting team returning for another campaign, Tyrone are favourites to triumph again, but Carlin insists that the team has had to be rebuilt.

“I suppose everybody will be targeting us, but if you look at that team, half those boys are gone now.

“So really this is a new squad of players, and that’s the way we treat it.

“But any of the boys that were there last year, hopefully we can use their experience, and they can use it to push on and improve and drive the new boys in the squad on.

“There’s a spine of boys who were there last year, they’re pushing and driving things on, and they are important for everybody around them.”

Down visit O’Neills Healy Park next Wednesday night for a first round tie for which the holders will have to be fully prepared.

“It’s only a couple of years ago that Down won the Ulster title, and with Conor Laverty still in with them, and being involved last year, they’re going to be strong.

“We know what Down will bring, they’re traditionally a good footballing side, but we’ll enjoy that challenge.”

With three Ulster titles and an All-Ireland to show for their five seasons in charge, success has not been in short supply for the current management.

But for Carlin, the key objective is the progression of quality players to the senior ranks.

“That was our ultimate goal when myself and Paul met six years ago. Yes, we want to win stuff, but for us, success is looking into a Tyrone senior team and seeing the amount of boys that have passed through our hands, that we have had some involvement with.

“You only look at this year, Niall Devlin has stepped up from being U20 captain last year to being one of the mainstays at wing half back this year for the seniors.

“And then you have Ruairi Canavan and Conor Cush stepping up too. It’s great to see all those lads doing that.

“You want to be challenging for trophies, and the good thing is that there’s plenty of talent coming through. We can see that with the schools being involved.”