BY BARRY O’DONNELL
WHILE every club in the county will have gleaned pleasure from seeing Tyrone seal a first Ulster U-20 crown on Sunday evening, there’s no doubt that for the Gaels of Strabane it had special significance.
Ruairi Gormley carved a niche for himself in the Sigersons proud history when becoming the first club player to captain a Tyrone team in a provincial championship decider at the Athletic Grounds.
Yet for the skipper such a landmark would have been tainted if the Red Hands hadn’t secured the main prize but there was little danger of that as his super-charged team roared to a 4-13 to 1-10 triumph over Derry.
Having fallen four points behind at the end of the first quarter, Tyrone produced a dynamic attacking display to obliterate the Oak Leaf challenge, hitting the back of the net twice in each half to run out convincing winners.
Gormley acknowledged that the provincial success would be warmly welcomed around Páirc Mhic Sioghair in Ballycolman.
“It’s good to bring something back to Strabane and to be the Tyrone captain, it means a lot for the club not just myself. I’m happy to do it for them.
“A success like this and I suppose with me being captain will spur other younger ones to become involved. It’s a big plus for the club. They have done so much for me too.
“It’s a massive achievement. It will take a while to sink in, captaining a Tyrone team to an Ulster title, it’s unbelievable for me.”
Though Tyrone enjoyed an inauspicious start to the match on Sunday, when conceding an early goal to a pumped-up Derry, Gormley was fully confident that his side would regroup and settle into the contest.
“We were four points down after 15 minutes or so which wasn’t great but all the lads knew we would be able to kick-start our challenge. We knew we would click eventually and have our purple patch and that is what happened.
Thankfully it lasted for much of the game from there on.
“A big part of our game is hunting in packs and our defending was outstanding again once we settled into the match. We always believe in tackling with high intensity and you see for much of the match they struggled to get through us.”
Looking back on Tyrone’s successful championship campaign, Gormley pinpointed the huge fright they endured in the second half of the opening round tussle with Down at Healy Park as the pivotal moment in the season.
“I thought the Down game kickstarted this whole thing. That just drove us on and brought us on in terms of maturity and what it takes to win a championship match. It brought everyone on as players and as a team it brought us closer together.
“Before that the Philly McGuiness tournament was also big benefit to us. It helped to build up confidence within the group and obviously it got us on a winning roll. We’ve been on that roll since and we carried that winning form into the championship. So it was definitely a benefit for us too.”
Tyrone will now face the Munster champions in the All-Ireland semi-final on Saturday July 27th. Cork and Kerry are scheduled to meet this evening in their provincial u-20 decider.
Meanwhile the Tyrone minors will look to bounce back from the disappointment of their Ulster Final loss to Monaghan last Sunday night, when they horns with Kerry in the All-Ireland quarter-final, also on Saturday, July 27th.
It will be a tough ask for Collie Holmes’s lads with the Kingdom chasing an unprecedented sixth All- Ireland in a row at this grade. Tyrone battled gamely against reigning Ulster champions Monaghan at the Athletic Grounds but there was little doubt that the Farney boys deserved their 1-13 to 1-11
victory, despite hitting 17 wides.