HomeFootballPaul Devlin happy that Tyrone are battle-hardened for All-Ireland charge

Paul Devlin happy that Tyrone are battle-hardened for All-Ireland charge


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PAUL Devlin has backed his team’s winning mentality to bring the best out of them in the All-Ireland U20 series.

The Tyrone manager has seen his side come out on the right side of a number of close battles, which he believes will stand to them in Saturday’s semi-final clash with Roscommon.

The Ulster final against Derry went to extra-time and penalties, following a narrow semi-final win over Monaghan, and Devlin will send a battle-hardened side into this weekend’s Kingspan Breffni Park tie.

“They’re winners, they have played in Ulster finals, All-Ireland semi-finals, All-Ireland finals,” said Devlin.

“People talk about the lads going in last week with little experience, but by God, these boys have some experience.

“The performances that our senior team has been putting in over the last couple of weeks in championship football have been outstanding, and what more desire can these boys get for driving on, when they’re seeing the seniors driving over the line and playing the games they have played lately.

“The desire these lads are showing, that’s what they have to do to get playing at that level, and full credit to them.”

The Red Hand boss is in his seventh season in the role, and this year has had to assemble a new backroom team, due to the unavailability of Dermot Carlin and Owen Mulligan.

He’s delighted with the way the players have responded to the fresh ideas brought to the table by Omagh CBS Hogan Cup winning manager Diarmaid McNulty, along with Connor O’Donnell and Cathal McCarron.

“Conor O’Donnell, Diarmaid McNulty and Cathal McCarron, three outstanding boys with what they have brought to the table this year – new faces in, a complete new management set-up, and they’ll get working with these lads here and prepare them for that next game.”

Four Ulster titles in the past six seasons, along with an All-Ireland in 2022, have maintained Tyrone’s strong presence at U20 level, while progressing a healthy cohort of graduates to senior level.

“We have young players coming through to play for the Tyrone seniors, with the experience those lads are gaining there.

“The most important thing is the experience that they are gaining at U20 level.”

A group of players schooled in the arts of persistence and resilience has demonstrated that there’s no such thing as a lost cause in championship football.

Trailing by four points in extra-time at the BOX-IT Athletic Grounds last Wednesday, Tyrone dug out a draw and seized the moment on the penalty shoot-out, with the help of three stunning saves by Conor McAneney.

“From the start of the year I have asked them for two things – honesty and never give up. That’s it in a nutshell there, what those lads have done.

“I could not commend them enough, they were outstanding. When that clocks keeps ticking away, you keep going at it.

“We had a few chances to put them away, and vice versa, they had maybe one or two as well

“And when lads made mistakes, they put the head down and just got on with it. Always go and look for the next ball, it’s very important.”

The importance of squad depth was underlined by the impact of subs, with Ruairi McHugh grabbing a vital goal, before Conor Owens shot a dramatic leveller to send the Ulster final to penalties, and Noah Grimes slotted home the winning kick in the shoot-out.

“We have to show faith in those lads. Going into a game, you plan for certain things, and maybe a scenario will happen.

“Things change in a game, and you maybe have to tinker and change things around, and you have the players there who can adapt and go in and do that.

“Training has been immense and we were prepared for a game like that. For us to go for a game like that, we had to be getting that out of each other on the training field, and all credit must go to the entire panel. It has been a pleasure to work with them.”

EirGrid All-Ireland U20 Football Championship


Saturday, May 11 (live on TG4)

Meath v Kerry (FBD Semple Stadium, 3pm)

Roscommon v Tyrone (Kingspan Breffni, 5pm)

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