Former Red Hand Coney expects U20 stars to make senior step up

Former Tyrone star Kyle Coney believes the senior team will bounce back from their Ulster SFC defeat to Derry
Former Tyrone star Kyle Coney believes the senior team will bounce back from their Ulster SFC defeat to Derry

FORMER Tyrone attacker Kyle Coney expects a handful of the county’s U20 All-Ireland winning stars to be called into the senior squad by Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher.

The young Red Hands laid on a sparkling performance to get the better of Kildare in last weekend’s final, with Ruairi Canavan producing a magical display up front with a 1-7 haul.

The departure of seven members of the senior panel makes it all the more likely that the joint managers will grasp the opportunity to replenish dwindling numbers, with Canavan, midfielder Michael McGleenan and wing back Niall Devlin among those being tipped to make the step up from the U20s.

“I’m sure we’ll see one or two of the boys drafted in over the next few weeks,” said Coney.

“If it’s not for this year, it could be for the purpose of bleeding them in for next year and letting them see what the set-up is like.

“The set-up needs that wee injection. With seven or eight players out of the panel, they need that bit of competition.

“We saw Niall Devlin, and obviously Ruairi Canavan stole the show with 1-7, and Michael McGleenan, who would be possibly the most capable of stepping into the senior set-up, with his physicality.

“We have some great players coming through there, the likes of Ruairi McHugh at midfield, so the future looks bright for Tyrone.”

Canavan, son of the legendary Peter and younger brother of current senior star Darragh, is eligible to play U20 football again next year, but a call-up to the seniors would in all likelihood mean the end of his inter-county underage days.

“We saw the likes of Clifford missing out on his few years at U20 level, but there’s only one way to find out if they’re ready, and that’s bring them, into the senior squad, get them into the set-up and see how they go,” Coney reasoned.

“I remember Darren McCurry coming into the Tyrone set-up, he went into an in-house game against Conor Gormley and hit 0-6.

“That was him ready, he went out the following week and played against Roscommon at Hyde Park. So that’s the only way to find out – put them in.”

Tyrone’s latest triumph bodes well for the future, with previous All-Ireland U21 titles having paved the way for success at senior level.

Several players from the back-to-back title-winning teams of 2000 and 2001 went on to win three senior All-Irelands, while many members of the 2015 All-Ireland U21-Championship winning side starred in last year’s Sam Maguire Cup victory.

“It’s a good marker. It gives players a taste of what it’s like to win, and with that taste of success, you always want more

“I know that those lads that won the 2015 title, they all wanted more, and they got their just rewards last year.”

Meanwhile, Coney believes Tyrone will bounce back and thrive in the sudden death environment of the Qualifiers following their Ulster SFC defeat to Derry.

He argues that Red Hand teams tend to rise to the occasion when their backs are to the wall in straight knock-out competitions.

“Over the years, I do think that Tyrone are better without the safety net, with no back door to fall back on.

“Last year, with no Qualifiers, they won the All-Ireland in a straight knock-out, when the safety net wasn’t there.

“And against Kerry in Killarney, when we could have gone to Division Two if we had lost the game. We hadn’t won down there since 2003.

“I do feel that Tyrone are a better team when our backs were are against the wall, we have to come out fighting.

“Now we’re in last chance saloon, I think we’ll see a rejuvenated Tyrone. We’ll see a side that, when they’re asked the question, as All-Ireland champions, they’ll answer it.”