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Provincial series is a big step up from the league but we can still thrive, says Holmes

Darragh Canavan
Darragh Canavan
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Tyrone manager Colin Holmes believes his team's opening victory against Donegal in the Ulster Minor Football Championship at the weekend could potentially prove the precursor to better things to come.

The Red Hands, who clinched the Ulster minor league title just a week before going into championship action, got the better of their north-west opponents at Ballybofey by 1-12 to 1-8 where Sean O'Donnell's goal and a helping of points from Daniel Fullerton, Michael McGleenan and Mark Devlin proved crucial in their victory.

"I was very happy with the team's performance because I was wary of the challenge that I knew Donegal would offer," said Holmes.

"We have players who were in the squad last year and younger guys who have just come in and we are beginning to get the right blend.

"The Ulster Championship is a big step up from the league but we can thrive on the challenge."

And it was reigning provincial champions Monaghan who got a forceful reminder of just how tough it can be when they only managed to eclipse Antrim by a single point (0-6 to 1-2) at Corrigan Park, Belfast.

Liam McDonald and Jason Irwin each scored a brace of points for Monaghan but Antrim stayed on their shoulder for the entire game and Joe McNally's late goal kept the Farney side at full stretch until the full-time whistle sounded.

Derry, too, encountered problems in overcoming Armagh by 1-5 to 0-4 at the Athletic Grounds where the hosts led by 0-3 to 0-1 at half-time with Ciaran Donnelly, Oisin King and Michael McConville grabbing their points while Enda Downey potted a free for the visitors.

But a 52nd-minute goal from PJ McAleese was crucial in turning the tide in Derry's favour and a further Downey point, his third from a free, helped to copper-fasten their victory.

In Kingspan Breffni, Cavan proved too strong for Fermanagh as the recorded a 2-14 to 1-7 victory.

Fermanagh had early scores from Conor Courtney and Ronan McGovern to lead the game but Cavan kept in touch with the help of three points from Daryl McGurren.

Late points from McGurren and Caoimhin McGovern then helped Cavan into a 0-7 to 0-5 lead.

Second half goals from substitute Jack Tully and midfielder Caoimhin McGovern made sure that the Breffni men safely progressed to the next round.

Meanwhile, emerging Tyrone starlet Darragh Canavan is unlikely to feature in the senior team's bid to land the double of Ulster and All-Ireland titles this summer.

Manager Mickey Harte has released the son of the legendary Peter to play with the Red Hands Under-20s in their Championship along with exciting young defender Matthew Murnaghan.

That will rule both of the players out of Championship involvement with the senior Red Hands until after the Under-20 Championship campaign comes to an end.

The Under-20s team is managed by Paul Devlin and will commence their campaign on June 30.

They will face the winners of Down v Antrim at the quarter-final stage of the Ulster U20 championship.

Canavan jnr initially made his mark at schools level and has since come under Mickey Harte's radar.

He made his senior debut in the Dr McKenna Cup earlier this year and had been expected to be on duty with the senior team for the Championship.

But he is now afforded the opportunity to further his career at U20 level.

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