Belfast Telegraph

Monday 15 September 2014

Tyrone starlets tipped for all kinds of glory

Major success: Tyrone Minors bounced back from Ulster final defeat to beat Kerry and Roscommon on way to All-Ireland final

Tyrone's arrival in the All-Ireland minor football final in which they will meet Mayo on Sunday week provides further confirmation for their ebullient manager Mickey Donnelly of the role that GAA can play in society.

Donnelly, who saw his side lose the Ulster final to Monaghan before thrusting themselves back into the All-Ireland title frame by overcoming Kerry after extra-time and then staging a dramatic second half recovery to pip Roscommon in the semi-final, is convinced that his side possesses "special character".

But the Aghaloo man, whose passionate touchline demeanour underlines his fervour for his role, concedes that nothing less than victory in the decider will prove a just reward for his charges.

And it's not just on account of their football ability alone that Donnelly is keen to see his players collect the biggest honour of all.

Having watched his side gain in cohesion and mature as individuals, Donnelly is convinced that the spirit and togetherness they show both on and off the pitch augurs well for their prospects not just in sport but in life itself.

"You hear a lot of talk nowadays about young lads of 17 or 18 years of age in relation to binge drinking, drugs, social networking and all the rest of it but these boys just continue to keep their focus," asserts Donnelly.

"They are a reflection of just how positive young men can be when they are chasing a particular goal."

At the outset of the Ulster Championship, Tyrone were underdogs against Donegal but came up trumps at Ballybofey before getting the better of Down in the semi-final at Kingspan Breffni Park.

But there was a shock awaiting just around the corner.

"The boys got a kick in the teeth when they lost to Monaghan in the Ulster final having built up an eight-point lead at one stage.

"Maybe slackness and complacency crept in but they went on to show their special character by beating Kerry and Roscommon," stresses Donnelly.

"Maybe if we had won the Ulster title we might not have got as far as we have.

"It's great to be preparing for the All-Ireland final, though, against a Mayo side that will pose a massive challenge for us."

Not since 1997 have Tyrone lost an under-age final at Croke Park but Donnelly rubbishes the theory that his players will be cushioned by the hand of history when they enter Headquarters once again.

"What has happened in the past has no real relevance as far as this group of players is concerned," insists Donnelly.

"They are only focused on creating their own piece of history.

"They are not dwelling on statistics from the past although it is encouraging that Tyrone has such a good record."

The Tyrone boss believes that his team has the capacity to revel in the final.

"To be involved in what is one of the biggest days in Irish sport is very special and if the lads do their very best, then we can ask for nothing more than that," adds Donnelly, whose side will be in action ahead of Dublin's clash with Mayo in the senior final.

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