Tyrone Under Twenty One manager Raymond Munroe faces a real challenge as he seeks to re-establish Tyrone’s reputation for success in this particular competition. The Red Hand County have been drawn to face Down in Newry on the sixteenth of March 2011 in the provincial quarter final. Tyrone’s record over the past few years at under twenty one level has been far from impressive and would appear to indicate that the idea of a continuous production line of talent is something of a myth.
This present squad will contain many of the All Ireland Minor winning side of 2008 with players such as Peter Harte, Niall Mc Kenna, Kevin Mossey and Ronan Mc Nabb to the fore. It is worth pointing out that although most people remember this team for their heroics in Croke Park and Longford as they overcame Mayo to win the Tom Markham Cup after a replay, their greatest challenge actually came in Omagh.
Tyrone played Down in the opening round of the Ulster Championship that year and were only in the game at half time largely due to the goalkeeping skills of Tim Harney and the defensive talent of Ryan Pickering. Second half changes swung the game in Tyrone’s favour and the rest as they say is history but Raymond Munroe knows that his first competitive outing as under twenty one manager will be as big a test as he could possibly face. Down are well aware of how the 2008 season unfolded and will be keen to set the record straight and exact revenge. They have produced a couple of good minor sides over the past couple of years and will be confident that home advantage could give them the edge.
Team manager Munroe will have already drawn up a list of players that he will be keen to include in his panel. He will however be only too well aware that some of the guys who featured prominently in his minor sides may not make it at under twenty one. Under twenty one football is much more physically demanding than minor but success, or failure, at this level is a better indicator of strength in depth and players who stand out at this grade have a fair chance of making it at senior level.
Tyrone need to once again establish themselves at the top table of under twenty one football and March 16th in Newry will give us a better idea of how close we are to doing just that.