Carlin believes Tyrone U20s still need to improve for Donegal showdown
COMPILING a form guide for U20 football can be a difficult and often pointless pursuit, but Donegal and Tyrone possess useful data ahead of Friday's Ulster semi-final clash.
A comfortable Tir Chonaill win over the Red Hands in the Leo Murphy Cup final a few weeks ago suggests they hold the upper hand going into the Celtic Park eliminator.
A 2-10 to 1-6 reversal in that Development League decider at Letterkenny has left Tyrone with significant ground to make up, according to assistant manager Dermot Carlin.
They bounced back with a championship win over Down, while Donegal maintained an impressive consistency by brushing aside Armagh's quarter-final challenge.
“Going back a few weeks Donegal gave us a bit of a lesson up in Letterkenny, so we have a lot to learn from that,” said Carlin.
“We have improved, but even going on the Down game, we still have a lot more improving to do. And Donegal won handy enough against Armagh.”
It was Donegal who knocked Tyrone out of the U20 Championship last year with a first round win over the defending provincial champions.
That was their one and only competitive game of 2021, with the Development League axed due to the pandemic.
But the return of the pre-season competition this season has been a welcome boost to squad development.
“That's the beauty of the league, that you're able to work on things and you're able to see where you're going wrong, to have really good competitive games.
“We didn't have that last year. If we had got over Donegal last year, who knows what would have happened? But that's gone and done, and we just focus on this year and on moving forward again.”
Tyrone appeared to be in trouble at Loughmacrory last weekend when they fell five points behind to holders Down.
But a strong second half revival saw a 10-point swing as the Red Hands won by five.
“In the first 15 minutes we were slow to get to grips, and then when we did, we had a good last ten minutes of the first half, which gave us a good stance going into the second half.
“But we really stepped it up in the second half, especially the first 20 minutes, but in the last 10, we were sorta inviting them on a wee bit.
“First half our basics just weren't there, some of our handling wasn't great. We must have jumped maybe five times with two men for the one ball, which didn't help things.
“Down were very good with that kick-out and flicking it on, and they were cutting through is with pace and numbers.
“But once we got to grips with that, we tightened the thing up a bit in the second half and closed them out.”
Attacking talent shone in the latter stages, with Ruairi Canavan and Conor Cush, sons of former stars Peter and Adrian, sharing an eight-point haul in Tyrone's 1-13 to 1-8 success.
“Ruairi is a super talent and he can do that, and he also gets a lot out of the other players, and the movement of the other players gives him a bit more space," added Carlin.
“Conor Cush was back for his first start all year, and he did very well, Seanie O'Donnell, Ciaran Bogue, all guys that are very capable and they just gel well together, they move well and create space for each other, and that's ideally what we want.”