TYRONE minor boss Collie Holmes says he isn’t there to hold his players hands through tomorrow night’s Ulster Minor Championship semi-final against Derry.
The three-time All-Ireland winner was massively encouraged by the leadership displayed by his players when their backs were against the wall in their round two qualifier win over Down on May 19.
Tyrone were two points in arrears at the break, but a select group of players laid down the law before they came out for the second-half, and where they led, the rest followed as they powered into the last four with a 1-15 to 1-10 victory.
“The boys spoke among themselves at half-time and set down a few targets in the second-half and it was good to see that side come out.
“We left them for a minute or two to figure things out – they’ve been Tyrone footballers all season and have to recognise that once they go onto the pitch, they have to sort it out themselves.
“A few men stepped up and the other boys bought into it, and it was good to see that when they had to do it they did it.”
That match was played as the curtain raiser to the Ulster Senior Championship quarter-final between Down and Armagh at Pairc Esler, but Friday’s semi-final date with Derry is a standalone fixture.
Holmes is disappointed that it isn’t adjoined to one of the many high-profile senior championship matches on this weekend, and says it’ll be up to the players to manufacture their own “buzz” against last year’s beaten finalists.
“The last game was on before Down and Armagh, the atmosphere was superb and it gave the lads a real flavour. The atmosphere probably won’t be as good as the last day so it’s up to us to create our own buzz.
“I know there are U20 matches and hurling and camogie on so you have to accommodate everybody but when you get to the semis you’d like to think there’d be some sort of arrangement with so many qualifiers on.”
The Red Hands will need to be on their game against a Derry side with plenty of talent in their ranks.
The Oak Leafers are aiming to reach their fifth Ulster Minor Championship final in-a-row and this year’s vintage have some serious players like captain Aidan McCloskey and free-scoring forwards Matthew Downey, Enda Downey and PJ McAleese.
“Derry and Monaghan are really leading the way in Ulster minor football at the moment. They’re really pacey, scoring big and conceding very little.
“Derry’s centre-half back McCluskey is an exceptional footballer, and they’ve said themselves that they’ve one of the best forward lines in Ireland, so it’s up to us to produce a big performance.”
Tyrone’s defeat to Monaghan earlier in the championship may in time reveal itself to be a mere blip, and Holmes hopes that they have learned a few lessons from their 3-8 to 0-13 defeat in Carrickmore.
“We’ve looked at it, we shipped three goals and we just weren’t at the races that day. We’re still looking into the reasons why but hopefully it’ll spur us on because we’ve learnt from all the games this year, and when you’ve a defeat you learn a bit more.”
FULL STORY IN YESTERDAY’S PAPER