GAA Football

Tyrone Under 20 boss Paul Devlin happy to face the Dubs on their own ground

Tyrone's Paul Devlin during the action in the 2019 Eirgrid Ulster Under 20 Football Championship final against Derry. Picture by Philip Walsh.
Francis Mooney

TYRONE Under 20 boss Paul Devlin has called on the GAA to stick with Croke Park as the venue for the All-Ireland semi-final.

Devlin says he’s happy to face the Dubs on their own ground in order to give his own players the experience of appearing at Headquarters.

The game was due to have been played on St Patrick’s Day as part of a double header with the other semi, but was called off due to the onset of Covid-19.

Now the Red Hands’ clash with the Leinster champions and Kerry’s meeting with Galway have been rescheduled for the weekend of October 17/18.

“It would be nice for the lads themselves to have it in Croke Park,'' said Devlin.

''Myself and Dermie (Carlin, assistant manager) have loads of experience of playing there and we can only tell it to the lads, but at the end of the day the only way you’ll get that experience is by playing there yourself.

“Walking in and seeing the stadium, all we can do is put forward our experiences of being there and how we handled it all.”

Devlin argued that home advantage may not favour Dublin significantly, as many of their players may be strangers to the Croke Park playing surface.

“Wherever it is, we’ll get on with it, but it would be nice for them to be playing in Croke Park.

“It would be good to go to the Dubs’ back garden and beat them in it, it’s something to look forward to and hopefully the hierarchy will keep it there.

“I know it’s Dublin’s home ground, but those Dublin lads, a lot of them maybe haven’t played there before, so it’s a big thing for them as well.

“Once that ball is thrown in, it’s dog-eat-dog, and you’ll not really care where you’re at when you’re competing for the ball.”

The Tyrone manager will encourage his players to make the most of their opportunity to savour their visit to the great stadium on Jones’ Road, just as he did as a player back in the eighties.

“I remember the first time I played in Croke Park, Damian O’Hagan, a great man for young lads coming through, we were walking out through the old tunnel under the Hogan Stand to play Dublin in a National League game.

“He tapped me on the shoulder, and said, ‘young Devlin, a wee bit of advice, take a good look around you, for you never know when the next time you’ll be back here will be’.

“So that’s what we’ll be telling the lads, take a good look around you at the start and then get on and play the game and enjoy it.

“Then put it to the back of your head that you’re in Croke Park, and play away. And you never know, you could be back the following week again.”

Both teams will have gone seven months without a competitive game when they face off for a place in the All-Ireland final.

Rustiness could play a part in setting the tone of the tie, but Devlin expects a fierce challenge from a talented Dublin team.

“It’s a massive, massive battle, and in the two semi-finals, you have the four so-called big guns from all the provinces.”

And he suggested that changes from the Ulster Championship winning side could be on the cards in his team selection, given the amount of time that has passed.

“It gives lads who weren’t featuring earlier in the year, maybe through niggling injuries, or coming back from injury and who just weren’t ready, a chance to get back.

“Then you might have lads who have gone off form, so there’s a good opportunity for fringe players to push their way in there.

“All the lads in the squad are more than capable of playing, and there’s the chance for them to stake a claim for a place on match day.”

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