A huge weekend ahead of GAA activities involving county and club players with the Ladies, the minor footballers and hurlers all involved in vital games as well as several key fixtures in league and championship. I had pencilled this weekend into the diary earlier in the year for what I had hoped to be a double header fixture in Croke Park involving the minors and seniors. Unfortunately the defeat of the seniors by Dublin meant that the only Tyrone man getting nervous about the senior game on Sunday will be Michael Kennedy. Best wishes to Michael and Dublin as they attempt to qualify for their first All Ireland Senior final since 1995.
The Tyrone minors go into their semi final against Mayo as favourites but that will count for nothing when the game gets underway on Sunday. Both these counties have great records at this level and their 2008 meetings were two of the best county minor games I have ever witnessed. Of course Sunday’s sides are two completely different teams and the history between them will count for nothing. Semi finals in any competition can be notoriously difficult with many teams coming up short because they made the mistake of having one eye already on the final. This is a very experienced set of players and management team so hopefully that mistake will not be made.
Much has been made recently about the success of Tyrone teams at underage and when you examine the county’s record particularly at minor level it reads pretty impressively. This present team will probably count themselves fortunate to have come through a stern examination by Down in the Ulster semi final. I do believe that game was the making of this side as they had to fight to the last to beat the Mourne men but they have not looked back since that win. They blitzed both Armagh and Kerry in their subsequent games and what was most pleasing about both those games was the team ethic which shone through.
Granted there are several hugely outstanding individuals well capable of winning matches almost single handedly but when you look at the spread of scorers and assists you begin to see how well this team plays together. Harry Og Conlon scored one goal and set up the other the last day out and his ability to get forward in support of the forwards is further testament to the threat posed by Tyrone. The movement, pace and quality of John Mc Cullagh and Ronan O’Neill are ideally suited to the wide open spaces of Croke Park and the Mayo defence will find themselves plugging gaps if they don’t get enough possession in and around the middle of the field. Tyrone attack with pace and in numbers and with the two man full forward line to look for inside they appear more than capable of scoring.
Solid defence in the modern game starts as high up the field as possible and with Stefan Tierney and Tommy Canavan tracking back the way they do, Mayo defenders will find they won’t have too much time on the ball. Team captain Shea Mc Garrity is a dervish at corner back and always leads by example. His battle with the Mayo corner forward Cillian O’Connor will have a huge bearing on the final outcome. Fortunately Tyrone defend as they attack, like a team. Therefore the chances of Shea Mc Garrity or any of the other defenders being left to fend for themselves or by themselves are slim. Mayo need to get early good quality ball to their forwards and make sure the support is also there because this Tyrone team is well capable of closing down the spaces and restricting the chances. Conan Grugan provides excellent additional cover and if he and his team mates can reproduce the form of the last two games I would expect them to make it through to the final itself.
Of course these are not the only county games this weekend as Tyrone Ladies and the minor hurlers are both involved in huge contests which will be followed with interest. The Ladies team face a daunting task on Saturday when they take on Cork in The All Ireland quarter final. Niall Colton and his players are under no illusions as to the magnitude of the challenge that awaits them in this fixture. Cork have shown themselves to be the top dogs in Ladies football for the past five years and are once again favourites to win The All Ireland. I would imagine that few people if any outside the Tyrone players and management group give them any hope of success and that can work very much in their favour. There is no pressure on the players coming into this game and if Cathy Donnelly and her colleagues can play to the top of their form they may cause a shock.
As far as the minor hurlers are concerned they have qualified to play Donegal in the All Ireland “C” Final at Casement Park on Sunday. The same opponents beat them earlier this year in The Ulster League by a solitary point and Declan Bennett and his team will be keen to gain revenge on their near neighbours and great rivals. Considering the failure of the county’s senior squad to raise the profile of the game this year it would be just the shot in the arm hurling in the county needs if the minor side can lift this title and fingers crossed they will.
It is also a busy weekend of league and championship football across the county with action in all three grades of football. There are two Intermediate quarter finals scheduled, the first of the senior quarters and two junior quarter finals down for decision. The senior quarter finals brings together two sides hoping to temporarily forget their league form and become the first side to make it through to the championship semi finals. There is historically very little between Kildress and Galbally but with form and confidence in short supply in both camps I have to say I think Kildress might just sneak this one on account of having a slightly stronger squad and greater scoring threat. Galbally are struggling at present and are further weakened by the absence of team captain Kieran Mc Crory who is away on honeymoon.
In the Intermediate match still down for decision North Tyrone pair Strabane and Newtownstewart lock horns at Castlederg. Both teams are just outside the relegation zone and will be anxious to push on in the championship. They know the benefit of a run in the championship and what it can do for the team in terms of confidence and self belief. Strabane won their recent meeting in the league but I have a feeling that Finbarr Mc Connell’s side just might have a bit more guile this time round. It looks like being a very close game and one I am really looking forward to seeing.
In the Junior championship Fintona take on Dregish and are favourites to progress to the semis. I watched Dregish beat Brockagh in the last round and was very impressed by their work rate and never say die attitude. They will certainly relish the fight and won’t mind being cast in the position of underdogs. If Fintona come into this game in a complacent or over confident manner they will be in a real fight and Dregish might turn them over. However John Kelly has his team in great shape at the minute and are challenging in both the league and the championship and I would be surprised if The Pearses failed to make it through to the last four.
The remaining quarter final sees the battle of the Owen Roes with the Glenmornan side taking on Brackaville at Greencastle. Neither side have been going particularly well in the league but will be keen to extend their season by making it to the championship semis. Brackaville have always been a reasonably good championship side and are also going well in the reserve championship so my vote goes with them. Owen Roes will be hoping to bounce back following their heavy defeat at home to Dungannon last week but their lack of scoring forwards could well prove to be their undoing.
Plenty of action too in the three divisions of the league with key games at the top and bottom of each section. The remaining six senior quarter finalists are all involved in important games and each team will be hoping to avoid injuries with the championship just around the corner. In the Intermediate league Derrylaughan will be hoping to close the gap on leaders Eglish while the Urney versus Killeeshill game could have a huge bearing on the relegation places in division two. Meanwhile the key games in Junior football see Killyman and Stewartstown continuing their push for league honours. Killyman are expected to beat Drumragh at home while The Harps will be pushed all the way by a Clogher side hoping to push for a playoff position. Even so I still expect the top two to remain in their present positions.
With so many games on across the county and beyond there is no reason for not getting your weekly fix of GAA action. For the real addicts there is not just the club action to entertain us but, tickets allowing, the chance to lend our support to the county minors as they attempt to make it through to another All Ireland Final.
Munroe hoping for second final in three seasons
Tyrone minor manager Raymond Munroe is in his fifth season in charge and he will aim to add to an already impressive CV when his charges take on Mayo in the All Ireland semi final at Croke Park on Sunday.
Munroe and assistant Cathal McAnenly have guided the Red Hands to three Ulster titles and one All Ireland crown during that spell and his side will start as favourites this weekend.
Tyrone followed up a comprehensive Ulster final win over Armagh by an equally impressive display against Kerry last day out and Raymond is happy with the way things are going but he knows that the men from the West represent a different challenge.
“We have looked at the DVD of the Kerry game and there were a lot of basic handling errors. We didn’t play with the same intensity as we did against Armagh and there is definite room for improvement. That display was good enough to beat Kerry but Mayo will no doubt be tougher.
We have seen their game with Offaly and they are a big strong side with plenty of quality players throughout their side and we are in no doubt that we will have to be at our best to beat them.
It’s a big game with the carrot of a place in an All Ireland final dangling in front of both sides. At the end of the day though we can only concentrate on our own game and make sure our own house is in order and hope that will be good enough on the day.”
Apart from captain Shea McGarrity, the rest of the Tyrone side played at headquarters for the first time in that win over Kerry but Raymond believes that they aren’t at an advantage just because Mayo’s quarter final wasn’t at Croke Park.
“Croke Park shouldn’t hold any fears for us as the lads all looked comfortable the last day but I don’t think we are at an advantage. At the end of the day grass is grass no matter were you play.
Mayo always produce good minor sides and we know from experience how difficult they are to beat having piped them in the final two years ago after extra time in a replay, that was one of the best minor sides never to win an All Ireland.”
Training has been going well in the build up to the semi final and Raymond hopes that one of his three injured players will be available to play some part against Mayo if called on.
“Liam [Gervin] is back in full training since the Kerry game and its great to have someone of his quality available and he should be in with a good shout of making the squad.
The other two though won’t be available for this weekend. Keifer [Morgan] tweaked his hamstring again last weekend while Jonathan [Munroe] has just returned to training and both have a bit to do at the moment.”
ALL-IRELAND MINOR FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI-FINAL
Grugan looking forward to Mayo challenge
Ulster champions Tyrone will bid for a place in the All Ireland minor decider tomorrow afternoon when they take on Connaught kingpins Mayo in the semi final at Croke Park.
The Red Hands have looked very impressive in recent outings as they followed up a convincing Ulster final win over Armagh by recording a comfortable win over Kerry last day out and they will start as favourites against a county who are bidding to reach the All Ireland minor final for the third year running.
Despite their last two performances Tyrone midfielder Conan Grugan believes that they will have to improve if the O’Neill county are to make it through to a fourth decider in the last ten years at this level.
“We played some good football at times against Kerry in the quarter final with the two goals in the first half giving us the cushion that we needed but having said that I believe that we will have to play better against Mayo”, admits Conan.
“We made a lot of mistakes and our ball handling wasn’t what it should be and there is no doubt that Mayo will punish us as they will be more ruthless than Kerry. They have a lot of big players and are very clinical when they get into the scoring zone so we have our work cut out.”
Omagh clubman Conan’s campaign didn’t get off to the best of starts when he was sent off in the first round against Antrim but he hasn’t looked back after missing the semi final win over Down and he is eagerly looking forward to playing at headquarters again and keen to make the most of this big opportunity.
“It was tough watching from the sidelines in the Ulster semi final but the lads played brilliantly to beat Down and with the competition so fierce I had to work hard to get my place back in the team.
Since then things have been going well and the experience of playing for the first time at Croke Park the last day was something else, it’s every young player’s dream. Hopefully though we have that out of the system as the semi final is the worst place to lose and we are determined to give it our best shot.”
Eglish 1-11 Moortown 0-10
Title favourites Eglish are through to the Intermediate championship semi final after overcoming a dogged Moortown side at Father Devlin Park Donaghmore on Thursday evening. Points from defender Daniel Kelly and corner forward Colum Campbell enabled the St.Malachys to lead 0-5 to 0-3 but Eglish fought back to get on level terms by the break thanks to efforts from Peter McCann and Caolan Daly. The second half was less than a minute old when Eglish were awarded what looked like a fortunate penalty when McCann was adjudged to have been fouled and Ciaran Jordan made no mistake with the conversion. By the eighth minute of the half though Moortown were back on level terms after points from Campbell, Conor Herron and Peter Devlin. Michael Jordan then put Eglish back in front before substitute Michael Hagan hit a brilliant equaliser from out in the right corner. Michael Jordan was sent off for a second yellow card offence but as is often the case the side who are a man down lifted their game. Brendan Donnelly, Peter McCann and Ciaran Colton all tagged on points and Eglish had done enough by the time Moortown had Pauric Hagan straight red carded in injury time.
Eglish – Stephen Colton, Patrick Jordan, Shane McCann, Ryan McKenna, Mark Gallagher, Pauric Martin, Ciaran Jordan, Caolan Daly, Emmett McKenna, Damian Jordan, Brendan Donnelly, Ciaran Colton, Peter McCann, Michael Jordan, Martin McCann. Subs – Conor McCann for Martin McCann, Dwyer Jordan for Mark Gallagher
Moortown – Colm Spiers, Pauric Hagan, PJ Quinn, Jarlath Hagan, Daniel Kelly, Martin Crozier, Daniel Quinn, Tony Quinn, Peter Devlin, Patrick Quinn, Ronan Devlin, Conor Herron, Colum Campbell, Dwaine McVey, Philip Muldoon. Sub – Michael Hagan for Philip Muldoon
Eglish scorers – Brendan Donnelly 0-3, Michael Jordan 0-3, Ciaran Jordan 1-0, Caolan Daly 0-2, Peter McCann 0-2, Ciaran Colton 0-1
Moortown scorers – Colum Campbell 0-5, Daniel Kelly 0-2, Peter Devlin 0-1, Conor Herron 0-1, Michael Hagan 0-1
Referee – Eamon McHugh, Aghyaran
Tyrone get set for Cork challenge
Tyrone senior ladies have recorded two impressive qualifier wins over Leitrim and Sligo but they face a big hurdle in their All-Ireland chase this Saturday, writes Damien Donnelly.
Cork stand in the way of progress to the semi-finals at Banagher in County Offaly (Saturday, 2.15pm, August 21st).
The Rebel girls are defending All-Ireland champions and have been at the top of the tree for several seasons now.
Cork overpowered Tyrone in a league match earlier this year but the Red Hands are ready to try and redress the situation.
Tyrone are playing well, are well prepared and looking forward to this tough test. They know that a top calibre performance will be required and very best wishes to them as they go in search of a landmark success.
The Red Hand girls contain quality players, allied to strong team spirit and cohesion. Cork could be rocked should Tyrone get into gear early and play to potential. It’s a very big ask but this is a Tyrone team worth keeping faith in.
Club wise, the county senior final between St Macartans and An Charraig Mhor has been pencilled in for the last weekend of August but hopefully Tyrone will still be in the championship by then and that would mean a deferral for this intriguing county decider.
Finals in other grades plus youth competitions and adult league games will also be on the agenda during the latter part of August and into September.
ALL-IRELAND MINOR C HURLING FINAL
Tyrone Minors Prepare for All Ireland Hurling Final
While the focus of many Tyrone GAA fans attention this weekend will be based on Croke Park and the pending All Ireland Minor Football Semi against Mayo, another group of Tyrone minors will be quietly preparing for their big day out at Casement Park in Belfast.
The Tyrone Minor Hurlers have successfully reached the All Ireland Minor Hurling C final following a recent qualifying tournament in Monaghan.
Their opponents this weekend will be the current Ulster Minor B League Champions and neighbours Donegal.
The two sides last met in the Ulster League decider back in March and Tyrone lost out on that occasion by a single point. Ultimately it was a series of wides in the second half that cost Tyrone that day and manager Declan Bennett is keen to address that issue and reverse the result at the weekend.
“We had an excellent league campaign and we were really disappointed that we didn’t complete our first aim in winning that Ulster title. We have been working hard in training since then to improve our decision making and in particular our accuracy in front of goal.”
The Ulster league campaign was followed by a heavy loss to Ulster Minor Hurling League Champions Armagh but as Bennett points out the main target for the season has been this All Ireland Title.
“We are realistic about what we can achieve at this level. It may come as a surprise to many people but Armagh defeated Down, Derry and Antrim at minor level this year and we didn’t expect to compete at that level in the championship. That was the way it turned out. We sat down at the start of the year and set our sights on winning the All Ireland C title. Sunday provides us with an opportunity to achieve that target and the lads are really looking forward to competing and winning.”
The minors reached this years decider after impressive qualifying wins over Louth, South West Antrim and South Down at the qualifying tournament held in Inniskeen.
Tyrone Minor Hurling Panel 2010 – Damien Casey, Phillip Barker, Conor Coyle, Dylan Cushley, Ciaran McCrudden, Shane McGlinchey, Kevin Grimley, Caolan Morgan, Tommy Lowe, Tiernan Morgan, Ryan Jones, Tony McCrory, Ruirri Devlin, Dara Mallon, Dermot Begley, Conor McElhatton, Brian Mc Gurk, Liam Armstrong, Brendan Begley, Tommy Fox, Mark Mullan, Stephen Fox, Sean Kelly, K B Corrigan, Collie Connolly, Caolan Devlin, Gerard Gilmore, Brendan Mc Shane, Plunket Lagan, Aidan O’Neill, Ryan Owens
Tyrone U17 Development Squad
The following players are requested to attend training next Wednesday evening in Kildress at 7:30pm:
Paul Owens (Beragh); Conor Little (Naomh Mhuire); Brendan Drum (Drumragh); Colm Corrigan (Dungannon);Phillip Barker (Eglish); Declan Goodfellow (Eglish); Caolan Morgan (Naomh Mhuire); Thomas Lowe (Naomh Mhuire); Lorcan Mc Grath (Naomh Mhuire); Niall Owens (Beragh); Cillian Barkley (Clogher); Matthew Heagney (Kildress); Niall Slevin (Dromore); Ryan Mayse (Newtownstewart); Matthew Jones (Eglish); Michael Mills (Pomeroy); Ben Mc Gillion (Strabane); Brendan Burns (Pomeroy); Martin Gervin (Brackaville); Declan Mc Clure (Clonoe); Barry Cassidy (Dungannon); Tiarnan Hampsey (Coalisland); Shane Mc Gonagle (Strabane); Paul O’Hagan (Galbally); James Kennedy (Derrylaughan); Rory Bradley (Omagh); Michael Mc Cann (Errigal Ciaran); Ciaran Canavan (Omagh); Nigel Brannigan (Omagh); James Gallagher (Omagh)
All players are requested to wear tyrone gear and bring their own water bottle.
Any player unable to attend is requested to contact Conleth Donnelly
Tyrone U16 Development Squad
The following players are requested to attend an Ulster Council U16 Development Squad tournament this Saturday in Silverbridge, Co Armagh:
Michael Cassidy Ardboe Sean Hackett Augher Stephen O Neill Brackaville Mark Bradley Cappagh Caolan Harvey Castlederg Padraig Kerlin Clann Na Gael Darragh Kavanagh Clogher Ciaran Blake Cookstown Ruairi Mullan Cookstown Oisin Maguire Cookstown Matthew O Neill Derrylaughan Caolan Coney Derrylaughan James Colgan Drumragh Eamon Donnelly Errigal Ciaran Pascal Donnelly Errigal Ciaran Neil Hagan Galbally Daire Martin Killeeshil Brendan Donaghy Loughmacrory Stephen Murphy Omagh Cormac O Neill Omagh Ciaran Mc Laughlin Omagh Diarmuid Carroll Rock James Campbell Stewartstown Ryan Mc Elroy Strabane Rory Brennan Trillick
Pick up points: Park and Ride Omagh (Crevanagh Rd) 10:00am; Ballygawley Roundabout (Omagh Side) 10:30am; Stangmore Roundabout 11:00am
*All players are requested to bring their own water bottle and a snack.