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Silverware welcome but focus must stay on the future: Devlin

 

In form: Darragh Canavan can inspire Tyrone when they face Cork tomorrow in the All-Ireland U20 semi-final in Tullamore
In form: Darragh Canavan can inspire Tyrone when they face Cork tomorrow in the All-Ireland U20 semi-final in Tullamore
Ruairi Gormley
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Tyrone Under-20 football manager Paul Devlin sees his role as much more than striving to bring silverware to the county.

Devlin will send his team into tomorrow's All-Ireland Championship semi-final against Cork at O'Connor Park, Tullamore (4pm) knowing that their opponents' win over Kerry in last Thursday's Munster final has shunted them into the favourites' role for the title.

But while Devlin is particularly keen to see the All-Ireland Under-20 trophy take up residence in the O'Neill county, he nonetheless takes a longer term view of what he sees as his "mission" with the Under-20 squad.

"I have always said that my main target is to unearth new talent for Tyrone at senior level. If we come again next year and there are three or four lads that Mickey Harte, Gavin Devlin and Stephen O'Neill believe are ready for their senior squad, I will feel I have done my job. It's a mission for me," points out Devlin.

"Don't get me wrong, though. To get a bit of silverware along the way, especially at All-Ireland level, would be great, but we have to keep the long-term goal in sight."

Devlin's drive to see some of his Under-20 squad elevated to senior level looks destined to succeed given the current form of players such as Sean Og McAleer, Tiarnan Quinn, Michael Conroy and skipper Ruairi Gormley among others.

Darragh Canavan and Matthew Murnaghan have already been accorded senior status but are remaining on Under-20 duty.

Tyrone left current Under-20 title-holders Derry on the seat of their pants by romping to a handsome 4-13 to 1-10 win in the recent Ulster final but, although his team's form has been impressive, Devlin is aware that Cork will form a huge obstacle in the higher intensity of the last four of the All-Ireland title race.

"Any team that can beat Kerry, irrespective of what level it is at, is worthy of respect and we know that we have a big task on our hands, there is no point in saying otherwise," insists Devlin.

"Yet we have to continue to have belief in our own ability and in our determination to maintain the success that Tyrone have enjoyed at under-age levels over the course of the years.

"My team has already undertaken a lot of work in terms of strength and conditioning and their mental strength is good. These are the kind of assets we will need going in against Cork."

Darragh Canavan has been hitting the high spots with Devlin's side and it was his silken skills that helped to further illuminate the provincial final win over Derry.

The diminutive Canavan, very much a chip off the old block, not only scored two points in that game but created several other scores by providing the openings for his colleagues up front.

Indeed, the Tyrone full-forward line of James Garrity, Sean Og McAleer and Tiarnan Quinn pocketed 2-7 of the team's 4-13 total in a strong burst of finishing power.

In the other All-Ireland Under-20 semi-final, Connacht champions Galway will meet Leinster title-holders Dublin at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park, Longford today (5pm).

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