ULSTER MINOR FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL
MONAGHAN V TYRONE
Sunday, Athletic Grounds, 4pm
TYRONE minor manager Collie Holmes believes that learning lessons has been the key reason why the county has returned to the Ulster final for the first time since 2013.
The three-time All-Ireland winner admitted that he would have stood down if the side had lost to Derry in this year’s semi-final, but now they are guaranteed two more matches minimum – Sunday’s Ulster final with Monaghan and an All-Ireland quarter-final a fortnight later.
Holmes was left devastated by last year’s semi-final loss to the Oakleaf county, but he said that the pain also led to a lot of learning.
“We came out of Newry this year (after beating Down) and we knew it was five weeks to the Derry match in the semi-final and we started planning for them.
“Last year the five weeks before the semi-final with Derry took forever and then we were chinned. This year it flew and things went well.
“It’s only been two weeks between the semi-final and the final now. It’s like a double rollover because you have this match and then two weeks later you’re going to have an All-Ireland quarter-final.
“The lads set themselves a target of playing football in July and they are doing that so training should be good this week.
“We went all in last year before the semi-final, trained away and didn’t take a break.
“We measured it more this year. We were looking to see who was working, who had exams.
“We just asked the players to give us their schedules in good time and it worked out
“Some of the best nights’ training came when we had maybe only 16 there because you really got to see them. When you have 34 out there training you can hide in the numbers.
“Last year we got to the semi-final and the coaching team was saying that a semifinal this year probably wouldn’t have been enough and we would have walked away. Thankfully we didn’t have to.”
Expanding on that, Holmes said that Tyrone football should always be aiming extremely high, and a sixth season without a provincial final appearance would have been unacceptable.
“Six years is a long time for Tyrone not to be in an Ulster final,” he said.
“We got to the league final, which was good, but the boys and everyone really wanted
to get to the Ulster final.
“It’s been a long time to get back to the this stage and that has been the result of a lot of work going through the hands of the development squads and the academy.
“It’s a good time for Tyrone at the minute with the u-20s in the final (against Derry) and the seniors going well.
“We have to play our part now and show up on Sunday.”
The team certainly didn’t show up in their round two meeting with Monaghan as the Oriel county stormed to a 3-8 to 0-13 win – and the visitors really should have enjoyed a much more comfortable winning margin.
“Monaghan are individually and collectively a very strong team,” Holmes said.
“We got a taste of it in Carrickmore and we keep coming back to the fourpoint hammering. That’s been the reference point for us all season because we simply weren’t good enough.
“Some days you walk away and you’re are beaten by a point and you are devastated. We were beaten by four and you could have stuck a one in front of it to make it 14.
“We saw a bit of stage fright for the first time and we have worked hard on that ever since.”
Another area they have worked hard on is their strength and conditioning. Holmes felt that they were every bit as talented as 2018 finalists Monaghan and Derry but were lacking on the physical sides of things.
Omagh clubman Aaron Grugan has been working with the squad since December and Holmes feels that they are much more prepared this season.
“We have a strength and conditioning in, Aaron Grugan from Omagh,” he said.
“He has given us a good handle on the training loads and when to ramp it up and when to step it up.
“Everyone thinks of three gym sessions a week, but our boys have rarely been in the gym. It’s not about lifting weights and we feel we are in very good condition.”