Former Tyrone player Kyle Coney believes that an All-Ireland title is within the gambit of the county’s Under-20 side which has already claimed the Ulster crown.
Paul Devlin’s side will meet Kerry in the All-Ireland Semi-Final at Portlaoise today (1pm) where Coney feels that they will be tested to the full but are still capable of reaching the Final.
Coney, forced into premature retirement from the senior inter-county scene because of recurring injuries, is convinced that the team’s firepower will serve them well against the Kingdom.
“When you look at players like Ruairi Canavan and Conor Cush, you see quality finishers and then there is Michael McGleenan and Steven Donaghy along with Ciaran Bogue and Ruairi McHugh, so there is real strength in the side,” points out Coney. “I know Cavan made the team work hard for their win in the Ulster Final but Tyrone’s finishing power stood to them.”
And Coney is quick to pinpoint what he believes to be another valuable asset within the side.
“Usually when we talk about teams chasing success we invariably mention the forwards but I think this Tyrone Under-20 side boasts a very good defence. They don’t give much away which is just as well because I think Kerry will ask big questions of them,” insists Coney.
He points to Kerry’s consistent success at both Minor and U21 levels in the past before these were replaced by the U17 and U20 competitions and suggests that their tradition could be a key weapon.
“The current Kerry side know they will be expected to carry on a winning tradition so they will want to respond positively. For this reason, Tyrone have to keep their guard up. They can’t afford to find themselves chasing the game,” maintains Coney.
Tyrone manager Devlin, who rendered sterling service to his county as a top-class defender at senior level, accepts that his side will be up against it today.
“Kerry are always a force to be reckoned with at under-age level because they keep producing good players so we know we will have our work cut out for us,” admits Devlin.
Kerry All-Ireland senior winner Declan O’Sullivan is in charge of the Kerry side and in Sean O’Brien, Thomas O’Donnell and Cillian Burke he has particularly gifted players who could put Tyrone to the test.
But from the Red Hands’ perspective, Ruairi Canavan, son of Peter, has been particularly lethal when it comes to finishing while McGleenan, son of the well-known Mattie, is a go-to target man in attack.
Ruairi McHugh is a forceful midfielder who is capable of garnering first-phase possession and launching counter-attacks.
Tyrone, though, will need to hit the ground running given that Kerry can be difficult to disrupt when they get into their stride. They showed against Cork in the Munster Final that they can last the pace and Tyrone will do well to bear this in mind when the action gets under way.