For only the third time in 13 years Ulster will not be represented in the All-Ireland Minor football final.
Tyrone’s rather surprising defeat by Meath and Monaghan’s loss to Dublin in Sunday’s quarter-final means that the province will take a back seat as the drive for the Liam Markham Cup intensifies.
It had initially been hoped that the progress which has been so prevalent at schools and under-age levels would be reflected by at least one county entering the last four of the All Ireland.
Instead, the giant strides which have been made in coaching and development in counties such as Dublin and Mayo have thrown down a further challenge to Ulster teams for the future.
Mayo beat reigning All-Ireland Minor champions Tipperary last Sunday while Dublin showed just why they are favourites to claim the title by the efficient manner in which they disposed of a Monaghan side that had extended Tyrone in the Ulster final.
The Ulster Council’s Head of Public Affairs Ryan Feeney, while regretting the fact that the province will have no part to play in the Minor semi-finals, stresses that the province nonetheless boasts a fine record in the competition.
“Since 1996, the only years in which Ulster has not had a team in the All-Ireland Minor final were 2000, 2003, 2006, 2011 and now, of course, this year,” said Feeney.
“While this is regrettable, it should in no way be allowed to detract from the excellent work that is being done at grassroots level under Dr Eugene Young.
“We have just had 70 young players all under the age of 16 in the Phoenix Elite Academy scheme and they have benefited from the expertise of people like Tony Scullion, Diarmuid Marsden and Ryan Mellon.
“Big strides are being made and while it would be nice to have a side in the mix for the All-Ireland title, you have to admire the progress that other counties are making on the back of huge work that is being undertaken.
“We have had some wonderful games in the Ulster Minor Championship this year including that thrilling Armagh v Tyrone game while the final between Tyrone and Monaghan was a cracker. I think the future of the sport here is in good hands.”