THE bare stats alone would suggest that Sunday’s Ulster Minor Championship Final at Clones should be a mere formality for Tyrone (Throw-in noon). The Red Hands, with 22 provincial titles at this grade, go head to head with Monaghan who have conjured up just the three.
And given that the Farney boys attained those successes back the 1940s underlines the huge milestone that this weekend would represent for the County if they were to upset the odds.
Not that Tyrone have any desire to play the role of fall-guys in any such Monaghan fairytale.
The expressions of delight on the faces of Mickey Donnelly’s young charges after they eased to victory over Derry in the semi-final three weeks ago demonstrated how much it meant to this particular batch of players to remain on course for their first provincial minor medal.
While the County as a whole may have gorged on national and provincial Under-18 honours for well over a decade now, it was still a new experience for the class of 2012, as well as their management team.
Cappagh sharpshooter Mark Bradley has been one of the stars of Tyrone’s successful League and Championship campaign to date, linking up to telling effect with equally precocious attacking colleagues such as Daniel McNulty and Sean Hackett to maintain the team’s winning run.
He really caught the eye grabbing two goals and seven points during the first round high scoring thriller against Armagh, but equally as impressive given the more cautious, conservative nature of the exchanges was his four sublime points from open play in the Derry semi-final triumph.
The Red Hands eventually cantered over the winning line 0-15 to 0-6 but Mark admitted that scores were a lot more difficult to come by than had been the case the previous day.
“It was bleak enough at the start, scores were hard to get. Derry were playing a lot of men at the back and dropping other back so it wasn’t easy for the forwards. I suppose as they tired a bit space opened up and we were able to pull away handy enough at the end up.
“It was a lot more scrappy than the Armagh match, a real dogfight but we knew it was going to be tight. We had played them a few times already so both sides knew a lot about each other and were looking to cancel each other out. It wasn’t that pretty but we were just happy to get the win.”