Tyrone minors face all-conquering Kerry in All-Ireland minor final showdown
Electric Ireland All-Ireland Minor Football Championship quarter-final: Kerry v Tyrone (tomorrow, O'Connor Park, 2pm, live on TG4.ie)
WITH the last seven Munster titles and the last five All-Ireland crowns under their belts, Kerry are the dominant force at minor level.
Tyrone meet them in Tullamore tomorrow well aware of their pedigree and also well aware of the levels they'll need to reach to spring what would be a surprise at O'Connor Park.
Collie Holmes' Red Hand youngsters have played some impressive spells of football this year and they recorded wins over Donegal (in Ballybofey), Down (in Newry) and Derry (in Armagh) to reach the Ulster final a fortnight ago.
However a Monaghan side that had proved too strong for them in the group stages of the championship saw them off again in the provincial decider at the Athletic Grounds and retained the Fr Murray Cup with a 1-13 to 1-11 win.
Luke Donnelly and towering midfielder Michael McGleenan – son of former Tyrone full-forward Mattie – slotted over early points and Daniel Fullerton was also on target as the Red Hands established a 0-5 to 0-2 lead by the 10th minute after Mark Devlin had drilled a 45 between the Monaghan uprights.
The Farney youngsters settled, began to dominate in midfield and gradually reeled Tyrone in and, with Darragh Dempsey outstanding, they drew level.
Diarmuid Marron gave them the lead for the first time and Dempsey's third of the first half sent his men in leading 0-9 to 0-8 at the interval.
McGleenan made a stunning start to the second half, seizing possession from the throw-in to
charge through the middle of the Monaghan defence and drill a low shot to the net past goalkeeper Joe Kirk.
Points from Donnelly and wing-back Sean O'Donnell sent Tyrone clear but the defending champions were level by the 43rd minute and Michael Hamill rose highest to field Conor McKernan's punched assist, turn and plant his shot in the net from close range.
Tyrone battled to the finish but they couldn't find a way back into the game and Dempsey's late free sealed a win for Monaghan. The task for Tyrone now is to pick themselves up from that defeat and give a good account of themselves against an all-conquering Kerry unit that has gone 33 games unbeaten at minor championship level.
"It's out of the frying pan into the fire stuff,” acknowledged Tyrone manager Holmes this week.
“We have come off a game against Monaghan, who have gone back-to-back in Ulster, and have beaten us twice this year, and now we go to a higher standard again.
“We have had a chance to have a look at the video of the Munster final and they were massively impressive – traditional Kerry football, tight at the back, big in midfield, and hard running power and kicking power up front. So we have it all do to.”
In the Munster Minor Football Championship, Clare, Tipperary, Waterford and Limerick play-off in phase one with the winner of the group progressing to join Cork and Kerry in the second phase.
Clare were that team but they lost to both of Munster big guns and the age old rivals met in a decider that Kerry won 3-14 to 2-14 to clinch their seventh provincial title on-the-trot.
Jack O'Connor (0-5) and Dylan Geaney (1-2) top scored on the day while Kevin Goulding and Colin Crowley both chipped in with 1-1 each on a day when eight players wearing green and gold scored.
Paths to the final
Ulster MFC final: Monaghan 1-13 Tyrone 1-11
Ulster MFC semi-final: Derry 0-10 Tyrone 1-14
Ulster MFC round three: Down 1-10 Tyrone 1-15
Ulster MFC round two: Tyrone 0-13 Monaghan 3-8
Ulster MFC round one: Donegal 1-8 Tyrone 1-12
Munster MFC final: Kerry 3-14 Cork 2-14
Munster MFC phase 2, round 1: Kerry 3-19 Cork 1-9
Munster MFC phase 2, round 2: Kerry 1-16 Clare 0-11