THE FEELING on the ground is that this is a particularly talented Tyrone U20 team, but their manager Paul Devlin believes the exact same could be said about their Ulster Championship quarter-final opponents Down.
Both teams won their respective regional league tournaments with the Red Hands coming out on top of the Philly McGuinness tournament while Conor Deegan’s Down were fitting winners of the Leo Murphy Cup.
Down already have a victory under their belts in the Ulster Championship, winning their preliminary encounter against Antrim at the weekend, and the experience of playing in the curtain raiser to the Ulster final between Donegal and Cavan will possibly stand to them as they travel to Healy Park on Sunday.
Devlin commented: “The main thing is that we keep our own house in order. Down always have a decent team and Conor Deegan is a colossus of a man and will demand the best out of them. They’ll be on a high as well after winning their league final.”
Devlin and his backroom team have cast the net far and wide in order to find a panel with the potential of doing something special in the Ulster Championship and possibly beyond. Darragh Canavan is their star name, but they have some serious ballers in their team, who managed fine without the Errigal Ciaran star when they claimed a 13-point victory over Sligo in the Philly McGuinness final.
“We’ve Conall Devlin from Ardboe, Tiernan Quinn from Coalisland, a lot of lads from mid-Tyrone including three from Loughmacrory. Ruairi Gormley is from Strabane and we have five super lads from Dungannon.
“I’ve gained so many friends from Tyrone over the years and we don’t show any preference to any club, it’s all about who’s doing it on the training field. Whoever is doing the business has a damn good chance of starting.”
Devlin was speaking at last week’s launch of the Ulster u-20 championship at Garvaghey, and he says that the Tyrone GAA Centre of Excellence is a serious asset to the county.
“It’s massive, it’s being used to launch the tournament and it’s central to a lot of things. It’s great knowing that we have a facility like this, we have to be proud of it.
“The people who put it in place have to take the credit for its development and all we can do as Tyrone men is try to make sure that those people have as many good days out as possible.”
Devlin has been involved with Tyrone development squads down through the years and isn’t surprised to see so many players from the All-Ireland u-21 winning team in 2015 graduated to become important members of Tyrone’s senior panel, like that team’s captain Kieran McGeary, Padraig Hampsey, Michael Cassidy – the list goes on.
“They were a super team and a super bunch of lads. They’re really to the fore of things with the seniors now. That’s great to see and that was the goal that Feargal Logan, Brian Dooher and Peter Canavan had at the time – to bring as many lads through as possible.
“Silverware is great but the progress down the line will be measured by how many of this team go through to the senior team and then there’ll be another batch coming after that.”