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Ulster U21 Football Championship: Senior trio bolster Tyrone bid

By John Campbell

Three players with senior experience — Niall McKenna, Peter Harte and Kyle Coney — will spearhead Tyrone’s bid to reach the Ulster U21 football championship semi-final against Monaghan when they line out in tonight’s quarter-final replay against Down at Healy Park, Omagh (8.00).

It was in a tingling contest in Newry that went to extra-time last Wednesday that the sides finished all-square, Mattie Donnelly’s goal highlighting Tyrone’s total of 1-12 while skipper Conor Poland had a big input into orchestrating Down’s 0-15.

McKenna and Harte have seen action in the Allianz Football League for Tyrone having played for their university sides in the McKenna Cup competition but Coney, who had a spell in Australian Rules football, has been injured lately.

The Ardboe clubman, though, was introduced as a substitute in last Wednesday’s drawn match when he scored a point and could have a more decisive impact tonight should he be given more game time.

Donnelly was an impressive performer for UUJ in the McKenna Cup and now that he is back in the Tyrone ranks he has the opportunity to enhance his reputation as a marksman.

McKenna will have a key role at midfield while Paddy McNeice, outstanding at club level last year, can undoubtedly bring his finishing skills into play up front.

Down centre-half-forward Paul McPolin and Paul Devlin are enterprising players who can help to spark their team’s attack while Danny Savage, one of several players to have sampled All Ireland Vocational Schools success with St Malachy’s Castlewellan, is a free-scoring forward.

Indeed, the Vocational Schools factor is very pronounced within the Down side with several members of the side having played together at this level.

Meanwhile, Donegal and Cavan will meet in the first of the U21 semi-finals at Brewster Park, Enniskillen tonight. Cavan overcame Fermanagh in the quarter-finals while Donegal, with Dermot ‘Brick’ Molloy to the fore, hurdled the feisty challenge of Antrim.

Donegal, the current holders of the provincial U21 title, have been making progress on all fronts lately and could again reach the final.

Senior boss Jim McGuinness, who was in charge of the U21 side last year, will be running his eye over the side with a view to further strengthening his squad for the remainder of the National League.

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