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Belfast Live
Belfast Live
Paddy Tierney

Croke Park or Carrick-on-Shannon? It doesn't matter to us says Tyrone U20 boss

The ‘Newbridge or nowhere’ campaign saw Kildare win the right to host their All-Ireland Qualifier against Mayo in 2018.

The footballers of Antrim and Cork took on a similar mantra this season and hosted their provincial ties against Cavan and Kerry at Corrigan Park and Páirc Uí Rinn respectively.

The choice of venues for Championship fixtures has always been a hot topic of conversation in GAA circles and this week was no exception.

Read more: Sons are shining for Tyrone as conveyor belt of talent continues to roll

The decision to bring Saturday’s All-Ireland U20 Football Championship to Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada in Carrick-on-Shannon drew criticism from several quarters.

Kildare selector Emmet Bolton told RTÉ sport: “It’s a national final between two really good teams who have worked hard to get through their provinces, and we are strongly of the belief that the final should be played at Croke Park.”

Speaking at Tuesday night’s press evening at Tyrone’s Centre of Excellence at Garvaghey, Red Hand boss Paul Devlin was keen to play down the issue, but added that the players would have liked the opportunity to play at Headquarters.

“Deep down, I always thought it would be somewhere down in the Midlands,” said Devlin.

“I’ve been talking to the lads and they don’t care where it is in.

“Yes, it would be nice for the lads if it was in Croke Park - we’ve all been there, we’ve played there ourselves before.

“Once the ball is thrown in, you forget where you are in Croke Park. It would be nice for the lads themselves and their families if it had been there. At the end of the day, where it is. . . we’ll turn up and embrace it.”

Devlin finds himself in the position of managing several players whose fathers he lined out with during his own playing days.

Tyrone’s leading attacker Ruairi Canavan is the son of the legendary Peter Canavan - and also the brother of current Tyrone player Darragh.

Michael McGleenan is the son of Mattie, Steve Donaghy is Plunkett Donaghy’s son while Conor Cush is the son of Adrian Cush.

Inevitably, comparisons are going to be drawn with several of the current U20 side tipped to be Tyrone stars of the future with the aforementioned quartet fancied to follow in their father’s footsteps and represent the seniors in the near future.

However, Devlin said each player will be given the time to develop and stressed that nobody will be rushed into the senior set-up.

“They’ll all take their own course and they’ll be themselves,” said Devlin.

Tyrone manager Paul Devlin says he has no issue with Saturday's All-Ireland U20 final against Kildare being played in Carrick-on-Shannon. (©INPHO/Ashley Cahill)

“It is very important that we realise that they are their own person. They are going to get the similarities thrown up to them, surely to God.

“They’ll soon be brought down by the ones who want to praise them at the start. It is a good thing the lads know that themselves - they’ve a good background and they’ve people who’ll guide them well.

“It is a big step up from minor to U20 and U20 to senior and some players take longer to develop and reach that level.”

Tyrone were last successful at this grade in 2015 when it was played as the U21 Football Championship. The likes of Kieran McGeary, Conor Meyler, Cathal McShane and Padraig Hampsey, who helped the Red Hands defeat Tipperary in that final, went on to win the Sam Maguire last season.

Kildare beat Mayo in the inaugural U20 decider in 2018 and enjoyed a five-point win over Sligo in their semi-final last Saturday at Breffni Park.

Devlin believes that, despite defeating a fancied Kerry team last Sunday, Tyrone will need to show improvement again if they are to capture the All-Ireland crown.

"It is a massive challenge, an even bigger challenge than last weekend,” added the Tyrone boss.

Tyrone full-back Brian Conway celebrates his side's late goal against Kerry. (©INPHO/Ashley Cahill)

“Kildare have come through with good minor teams over the last couple of years, they’ve been doing a lot of work with their youth teams.

“When you are involved, you are watching what’s going on in other counties and other provinces.

“Kildare have been knocking on the door for a long time. Back in 2018, the first year of the U20s, Kildare were the first winners so there’s a lot of work going on there. It is a big challenge at the weekend.

“It will be stepping it up two or three gears again if we want to get over the line.”

Read more: Female referees get the same abuse as males says leading GAA official

Read more: Tailteann Cup 2022: North/South divide provokes anger with New York given a bye

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