Tyrone minor football team manager Gerry Donnelly always knew his side would face a hard battle against Derry in the Ulster Championship final.
That’s precisely how things turned out with a late goal helping to give the Red Hands their 4-8 to 0-16 victory, but if his players found the going difficult on that occasion, they face a potentially even more hazardous mission against Kerry in today’s All-Ireland quarter-final at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise (4pm).
The Kingdom may have bowed to Cork in terms of the Munster title but such is the depth of talent within their side that Donnelly expects his players to be stretched to the limit.
“Kerry have a great tradition at minor level and we know they will be very tough opponents. It’s important that we get off to a good start and maintain our momentum. We are aware that Kerry can be very resilient and that this will be a big challenge for us,” insisted Donnelly.
The Ulster champions will look to Conan Devlin at midfield as well as skipper Eoin McElholm, Ronan Molloy and Caolan Donnelly to light the touch paper for what Donnelly hopes will be an emphatic display.
Noah Grimes and Michael McIlhatton are other players who could have much to contribute, while goalkeeper Conor McEnaney has already underlined his ability in league and Championship this year to date.
While the Red Hands will seek to send the Kingdom packing, Derry will aim to overcome Cork in the second quarter-final on the O’Moore Park double bill (6pm).
The Oak Leaf side may have played second fiddle to Tyrone in the Ulster decider but there is a depth of talent within their squad that manager Martin Boyle feels can surface again today.
In this context, Eoin Higgins, Ciaran Chambers and Ruairi Forbes can lead the quest for scores while Odhran Murphy’s creative ability is again likely to prove a key factor.
Cork are the reigning Munster champions and their side is embossed with attacking talent which means that the Derry defence just has to be on its toes if further progress is to be made in the All-Ireland series.
“While it’s great to have reached this stage of the competition, we have to go out and prove ourselves,” stated Boyle.
“Cork have a tremendous tradition at minor level and they will feel confident, but I believe that if we can get into our stride early then we can cause problems for them with our pace and finishing.”