GAA Football

When tomorrow isn't promised, today is everything

Tyrone U20 will look to scale the heights of an All-Ireland title on Saturday evening in Carrick-on-Shannon
Picture: Margaret McLaughlin 

Eirgrid All-Ireland U20 Football Championship final: Tyrone v Kildare (today, 5pm, Carrick-on-Shannon, live on TG4)

OUTWARDLY, the point of U20 football is developing players for the next step. But the tomorrow of senior inter-county is less of a promise than it’s ever been. That makes today absolutely everything.

Tyrone have tended to make hay of their visits to this stage. The Ulster U21 titles in a row and two All-Ireland titles between 1990 and ’92 backboned the team that brought them a senior decider in ’95.

The class of 2000 and 2001 need no introductions and the 2015 crop got their eternal rewards last September as eight of that team earned their big Celtic Crosses.

If that seems like a big return off one team, it’s not particularly. Almost all of the Tipperary team they played that day have played senior championship for the county.

Mayo and Cork have gotten seven apiece off their 2016 teams, while Dublin’s 2017 side has eight senior panellists, fewer than the 10 Galway got off their beaten team that day.

Those numbers since the grade moved to U20 have dipped alarmingly but there’s not the evidence yet to say it’s a permanent change.

For a team on the upward trajectory they’re on but with the lack of success in the years that went before, Kildare might have expected more than just Jimmy Hyland and Tony Archbold from 2018 U20 All-Ireland winning team to have started against Louth two weeks ago.

Yet the signs are very definitely bright for the Lilywhite county. They didn’t really deserve to drop out of Division One in the spring and should find themselves in a Leinster final two weeks out that people will give them a chance of winning.

What chance them going there holding the All-Ireland U20 title?

If they bring the performance they brought to their All-Ireland semi-final win over Sligo, no chance.

But if it’s a closer match to the display in the Leinster final win over Dublin then Kildare will definitely feel they have enough to hurt Tyrone.

The contrast between the two All-Ireland semi-finals was stark. Tyrone’s win over Kerry was played at breakneck speed and with serious quality on show at both ends.

Kildare’s 0-12 to 0-7 win over Sligo was a far more pedestrian game, full of mistakes and, most worryingly for boss Brian Flanagan, a very poor display from his attack.

Sligo pulled back within a single score at 0-9 to 0-6 with just over ten minutes to go. At that stage, Kildare had scored just nine times from 32 scoring chances, all but a few of which ended in a shot.

What should have been a very handy win needed Aaron Browne to pull them out of the hole with his five points from play. Tyrone will be aware that he was brilliantly marshalled by Dublin’s Theo Clancy in the Leinster final.

Kildare were a very different team that night though. Adam Fanning, who roves a bit from 14, and Eoin Bagnall shared eight points from play between them.

Of the 0-17 Kildare scored, 0-16 was from play. They scored nine times from 11 shots in a brilliantly efficient second half.

There’s no comparison between the two performances.

The same can be said in reverse about Tyrone’s last two outings. They were very, very lucky to get out of the Ulster final against Cavan.

They haemorrhaged possession all night, couldn’t win a kickout from either end, and were dragged through by the accuracy of Ruairi Canavan and a few very debatable decisions.

Against Kerry, they were superb.

They were up against two serious operators in Dylan Geaney and Kevin Goulding inside and even though they got 1-8 between them, there was some amount of defensive digging-in needed to keep them to that.

Tyrone will be worried by Kildare’s physicality around the middle. They really struggled with that against Cavan. Michael McGleenan has plucked a few big fetches but over the last 120 minutes on the whole, it has generally been an area of concern for Paul Devlin.

If he gets his match-ups right and his full-back line performs, Tyrone will win. It looks like Michael Rafferty, who has had the big jobs on Geaney and Cavan’s Darragh Lovett, to pick up Aaron Browne, with Brian Conway on Adam Fanning and Eoin Corry on Eoin Bagnall.

The Lilies will most likely go for full-back Dean O’Donoghue on Canavan, with the nippy Harry O’Neill and Mark Maguire well suited to the more lithe and jinking threats of Conor Cush and Ciarán Bogue.

Any complacency that beating Kerry means job done, Tyrone will pay for it.

Even if there isn’t, provided the Kildare side that beat Dublin shows up here, this is a serious game of football.

But even in the first half that night their shooting was off (8 from 17), and in the end Tyrone will be good enough at the back to ensure that no matter what comes of any of them in the future, today will be a day they’ll always want to remember.

LIKELY LINE-UPS
              S McMenamin

M Rafferty  B Conway  E Corry
A Browne  A Fanning  E Bagnall

J Donaghy S Donaghy N Devlin
N O’Regan  D Lynam   S Farrell

    R McHugh   M McGleenan
    B Gibbons       L Killian

C Daly S O’Donnell  R Canavan
T Gill    J McGrath D O’Donoghue

G Potter   C Cush   C Bogue
R Burke M Maguire H O’Neill

              C Barker

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