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Tyrone must now strive to reach a new peak, insists Devlin

Tyrone v Derry, Ulster Under-20 Championship Final: Athletic Grounds, Tomorrow, 6.00 pm

On fire: Darragh Canavan’s accuracy can underpin Tyrone
On fire: Darragh Canavan’s accuracy can underpin Tyrone
John Campbell

By John Campbell

When Tyrone take the field for tomorrow's Eirgrid Ulster U20 Football Championship final against title-holders Derry at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh (6pm), they will do so with a pertinent message from manager Paul Devlin ringing in their ears.

"I will be telling the lads that the bar has been raised for them because of the standards we try to set at all levels in Tyrone," says the fiercely committed Devlin.

"We are pushing for success all the time and the team which will be on duty tomorrow carries the responsibility of trying to maintain the progress that we have become accustomed to. We must strive to hit a new high."

Tyrone survived scares against Down and Cavan in reaching tomorrow's decider, but opponents Derry have not had it all their own way either in getting to this stage.

Manager Mickey Donnelly makes no bones about the fact that his side "lived dangerously" against both Armagh and Fermanagh before they progressed.

And he accepts that Tyrone will now represent a major test for his side.

"Fermanagh hit the post in the last minute of our semi-final which we only won by three points so that shows you how tight it was," reflects schoolteacher Donnelly.

"That has really served to focus our minds for this final. I think the overall standard at Under 20 level here in Ulster is high because you have an awful lot of quality players. A lot of them will be in action in this final tomorrow night."

Certainly Derry can look to a number of players such as Padraig McGrogan, Lorcan McWilliams, Paul Cassidy and Ethan Doherty who have come up through the minor ranks, while the Red Hands will expect Sean Og McAleer, Darragh Canavan and skipper Ruairi Gormley to lay the basis for their performance.

Canavan's mesmerising running and ability to snap up half-chances have had much to do with Tyrone's voyage into the final and much will be expected from him tomorrow, particularly as the Derry defence has tightened up somewhat having erred on the side of generosity in earlier games.

Gormley's leadership has been a significant plus-factor for the Red Hands this term but the Strabane Sigersons clubman prefers to see praise heaped on the side as a whole.

"I think all the players have done their bit to get us this far. Now that we are here we want to push on," insists UUJ student Gormley.

"At the start of the year we said that we wanted to try and reach the Ulster final. This has been our goal and now it's up to us as a team to push on.

"Derry are a good team and obviously they will be very keen to retain their title, as you would expect."

Derry indeed may be the reigning champions but there is every chance that the Red Hands could deliver on their captain's aspirations when the two sides go head-to-head tomorrow.

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