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Tyrone Under-20s reap benefit of family fortunes as familiar names but unfamiliar faces lead quest for All-Ireland glory

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Michael McGleenan in action for Tyrone U20s

Michael McGleenan in action for Tyrone U20s

©INPHO/Ashley Cahill

Stevie Donaghy is built in the same way as father Plunkett

Stevie Donaghy is built in the same way as father Plunkett

©INPHO/Ashley Cahill

Ruairi Canavan is following in the footsteps of father Peter

Ruairi Canavan is following in the footsteps of father Peter

©INPHO/Ashley Cahill

Conor Cush is starring for Tyrone like his father Adrian once did

Conor Cush is starring for Tyrone like his father Adrian once did

©INPHO/Ashley Cahill

Tyrone Under-20s manager Paul Devlin

Tyrone Under-20s manager Paul Devlin

©INPHO/Ashley Cahill

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Michael McGleenan in action for Tyrone U20s

If you were a Tyrone football fan of the 1990s and hadn’t seen a game since, after a cursory glance at the current Under-20 panel you would be forgiven for rubbing your eyes in disbelief.

In the Ulster final against Cavan in Brewster Park, Ruairi Canavan was at the perfect angle for the supporters behind him as he captured a sumptuous sideline ball and kicked it with just the right amount of swerve over the bar. In that moment, it was like looking at his father Peter.

At one stage in the All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry last weekend — they face Kildare in this weekend’s final — Michael McGleenan took possession of the ball. He bulldozed his way through a couple of challenges and when another defender stood off him, sought the contact to shove him back before slinging a shot over the bar. There’s no way he looked anything other than just like his father Mattie.

That’s only the start of it.

You have Conor Cush, son of Adrian, who was Peter Canavan’s attacking foil for many years through their under-age and senior careers.

Plunkett Donaghy was retired by the time of the 1995 All-Ireland final, but he played with the aforementioned trio. His son Stevie is on this U20 panel.

James Donaghy, at wing-back, is a cousin of McGleenan.

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Sean O’Donnell, the flame-haired attacker from Trillick, is a cousin of Ruairi Canavan and a nephew of Peter.

Ronan McGarrity is a nephew of the Ronan McGarrity that played in the 1995 final, and — again — a cousin of Ruairi Canavan and nephew of Peter; his aunt is Finola, married to Peter.

The further on you go, the more connections there are. Some of them are more obscure, such as Harry Morgan of Dungannon, whose father Chris played minors and Under-21 football with the county.

And all of these boys are managed by Paul Devlin, who played with their fathers in the 1990s and was corner-back on the 1995 All-Ireland final side.

It then skips a generation too.

Cormac Devlin of Ardboe is a son of Gavin, the two-time All-Ireland winner in 2003 and 2005 who then embarked on a lengthy coaching career as Mickey Harte’s assistant, and is still with him in Louth.

Last year, a similar article traced the senior team’s connections to Tyrone teams of the past and found that most of the starting side had relatives that had also worn the Red Hand, such as Conor Meyler (father Seanie) and the Donnelly brothers Matthew and Richard (father Liam), while Darragh Canavan’s father is also very well documented by this point.

Eunan Lindsay is the Tyrone county board hurling officer and former vice-chairman. He has a particular interest in appearance statistics, having sat down over lockdown to compile the names and appearances of everyone who is on record of having played for the county.

“It is possibly more notable when you see these names appearing year after year after year. I am sure it happens in other counties as well but it could be because Tyrone have been that successful since 1986 that these boys were of an age and a time,” he said. “It’s very noticeable at this stage that there are certain bloodlines coming through. With a bit of luck it will continue well into the future.”

The truly remarkable thing is how some of these players resemble their fathers in an almost alarming way in playing style.

“If your name is Darragh Canavan, you are never going to be a corner-back or put in corner-back,” Lindsay pointed out.

A final example for you, which shows the span of these things.

Eoin Corry of Omagh is also on the panel. He is a grandson of Paddy Corey, who played on the first Tyrone team to win a senior Ulster title in 1956.

The spellings as we detail here are correct. The relationship comes from Eoin’s mother, a Corey, who married a Corry.


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