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Tyrone starlets keep the Holmes fires burning in bid for semis

 

Tests ahead: Collie Holmes
Tests ahead: Collie Holmes
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Tyrone U17 football manager Collie Holmes believes that the high standards which have been set at all levels within the county will prove a big spur to his side when they step out against Kerry in the All-Ireland quarter-finals at O'Connor Park, Tullamore on Sunday (2pm).

Holmes, who won two All-Ireland medals as a senior player with the Red Hands, subscribes to the theory that the achievements at minor, U21 and senior levels in the past have to some extent raised the bar for the present generation.

Yet while this is only the second year of the Under 17 Championship which replaced the minor competition, Holmes is only too well aware that Kerry's stunning record of success spanning recent years will form a big test for his own side.

The Kingdom won the All-Ireland minor crown every year from 2014 to 2017 inclusive before adding the inaugural Under 17 title to their list of honours.

But if dedication alone sufficed to win the trophy, Holmes believes his side would be entitled to lift it now.

"The families of a lot of these guys have been away on holidays in different parts of the globe but they have stayed behind to maintain their training regime," points out Holmes. "We as management appreciate the fact that they have put their shoulder to the wheel and made big sacrifices in the process."

On Sunday skipper Niall Devlin leads a side that includes skilful forwards in Mark Devlin, Daniel Fullerton and Luke Kelly, while Michael McGleenan and Steven Donaghy will form the midfield partnership.

Kerry manager James Costello saw his side pushed to the limit by Cork before winning their seventh Munster title on the trot and in Colin Crowley, Dylan Geaney, Kevin Dowling and Jack O'Connor he has forwards who could make life difficult for the Red Hands rearguard.

"Kerry have set the standard but we knew we would be facing into a real challenge at this stage," says Tyrone boss Holmes.

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