Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Conor values family input as he bids for minor success with Tyrone

Family input: Conor McKenna is hoping to make up for brother Ryan's disappointment when he features in the minor football final
Family input: Conor McKenna is hoping to make up for brother Ryan's disappointment when he features in the minor football final

Conor McKenna will be carrying a flag for family pride as much as anything else when he lines out for Tyrone against Mayo in the AlI-Ireland minor football final on September 22.

McKenna, man of the match by some distance when the Red Hands staged a dramatic recovery to overpower Roscommon in last Sunday's semi-final, is hoping to provide a measure of compensation following the disappointment that his older brother Ryan suffered with the Tyrone senior side.

Having made his debut earlier this year, Ryan has been a virtual ever-present in Mickey Harte's line-up since then and was at right-full-back when the side fell to Mayo in the last four of the race to claim 'Sam' on Sunday week last.

Having previously played at wing-back, his versatility proved a key weapon in Harte's defensive mechanism but after setting a hot pace in the opening twenty-five minutes during which they threatened to overwhelm Tyrone, Mayo cut loose after the break to streak to a comfortable win.

And for Ryan, who had hoped to mark his debut season in the side with a helping of championship success, that defeat was a bitter disappointment.

"We were going well in the first-half but Mayo got the better of us after the break and we could not get back into the game," admits Ryan.

Now Conor, who scored 1-4 in the victory over Roscommon, will get the full backing of Ryan and the rest of the family when he lines out against a Mayo side who have been rated as warm favourites to land the All-Ireland minor crown for some time now.

Playing at centre-half-forward against Roscommon, Conor pulled the strings for the Red Hands and his superbly-taken goal in the 38th minute had a particular bearing on the outcome of the game given that Roscommon had held the whip hand up until then.

"It was great to get the win because we never got going in the first-half," recalls Conor.

"We just stuck at it from half-time onwards and luckily we got a few crucial scores that stood to us at the end of the day."

And he will go into the final fortified by a strident message of support from team manager Mickey Donnelly.

"To be honest, Conor can play an awful lot better than he did on Sunday and that's an indication of just how good a player he really is," enthuses Donnelly.

"He's a great lad, he comes from a great family who are tremendous people.

"His brother Ryan played for Tyrone against Mayo, and showed up very well as he has been doing all year since coming into the side."

Donnelly believes Conor's qualities of leadership and integrity will add impetus to Tyrone's bid to land the All Ireland crown.

"He kept his head down in the second-half against Roscommon and helped us to tough it out."

"That's the kind of players you need in there when the heat is on. In the last 20 minutes he was superb," adds Donnelly.

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