Tyrone U21s hope to lift the gloom

Tyrone’s U21 footballers carry a torch for others to follow, a guiding light that can lead them out of a tunnel of darkness.

The Red Hands’ involvement in today’s All-Ireland final has lifted a gloom that has hung over the county since the senior side suffered relegation from Division One of the Allianz Football League last month.

Spirits have been raised, not just among fans, but among members of Mickey Harte’s squad, who have rediscovered the joy of becoming a supporter once again.

For them, this is a welcome distraction from the grind of preparing for the Ulster SFC preliminary round clash with champions Donegal.

Harte’s squad will watch this evening’s decider as a group, offering their encouragement and trusting that they will receive some welcome inspiration in return.

Peter Canavan, who captained Tyrone to All-Ireland U21 titles in 1991 and 1992, has no doubt that this season’s adventure can only have positive implications on a broader level.

“There’s no doubt it will give it a lift. A number of senior players have been at the games, encouraging the boys, and saying that winning Ulster has been a good lift for them,” said Canavan, now a member of the U21 management team.

While Canavan and others may appreciate the positive by-products which may flow from the exploits of a squad that has won a first Ulster title in nine years and reached an All-Ireland final for the first time since 2003, it is vital that the players’ thoughts and energies are channelled exclusively towards their title shoot-out with Tipperary.

“They have a very big job in hand, and I think our players know that, and we’re not looking any further than that. Our eyes and our focus is solely on getting prepared to win a very tough match.”

Once dominant at this level, Tyrone’s decade in the doldrums had lowered expectations.

And the fact this side has not win many admirers outside the county doesn’t worry Canavan, who has been grateful for the lack of respect shown by pundits and bookies.

“We were probably coming in under the radar somewhat, and it’s not a bad position to be coming into a championship in.”


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