TYRONE minor manager Mickey Donnelly is under no illusions as the challenge awaiting his charges in Croke Park on Sunday afternoon, writes Seamus Donnelly.
The Red Hand youths face off against Roscommon in Croke Park bidding for a place in the All Ireland final.
Donnelly was in Tullamore to see the westerners dispose of All Ireland favourites Kildare earlier in the month and from what he saw he was impressed.
“Roscommon are now the favourites to win it. They beat a Kildare team that everybody thought were going to be the team to beat.
“We were at the match and Roscommon were comfortably the better team. They played with fourteen men, they lost one of their defenders early on and they were much the better team.”
Donnelly was also impressed with the Rossies attack whom he singled out for particular credit.
“They have four or five real good forwards. They’re a wee bit like us in that they are very mobile.
“The wee lad Jack Earley at centre half forward is a good player, there’s a lad Harney at left half forward is a good player, McGann at full forward, another lad Murtagh in the corner. Again they are all good players and they could all hurt us on any given day. Hopefully our defence can hold up.”
After losing the Ulster final in the final minutes having led comfortably, Donnelly admitted that some of his players were low following that contest. That air of despondency changed however when news filtered through that they would get the opportunity to play in Croke Park.
“The fact that we got to Croke Park was a big lift to the lads. Given the fact that we’d been beaten in such disappointing circumstances in the Ulster final the lads were very low. Given the fact that the game was in Croke Park it really gave them a lift again and it was the boost that we needed.
“To get to Croke Park and to get the chance to play Kerry was what you dream about as a child and these lads even though they are 16, 17 or 18 years of age, they are no different. At 5 or 6 years of age they were kicking a ball at the back door playing Kerry in Croke Park.
“That was brilliant it’s just important that we channel that same enthusiasm and that same determination into the Roscommon match now.”
Tyrone can take plenty of confidence from having dispensed with Kerry, the Munster champions having shown great resolve to battle back when the game seemed lost.
Donnelly admits that having drawn Kerry, the young Red Hands were relieved just to be in the squad.
“When you’re beaten, you’re just happy to play anybody. We were happy to play Kerry. As things have shown, Kerry were a good team, they had 7 or 8 lads that played in the All Ireland semi final against Dublin last year.
“They had a fair wee bit of experience. A lot of their big players had all played on the big day and our lads dealt with that well.”
Having ground out a win against the Kingdom, Donnelly was glad that some of his players really stepped up to the mark when needed and he’s hopeful that they can repeat the dose against Roscommon.
“There’s no hiding place in Croke Park. Players will either relish it or maybe go into their shell. All our boys thank God seemed to relish it and to soak it up and we were very fortunate in that regard. We hope that the more that they enjoyed it the more that they will relish playing there again.”