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Tyrone under-20s targeting Ulster glory

HAIL or shine, summer or winter- whatever the elements Cormac Munroe doesn’t mind if it means winning football matches.

The young Carrickmore powerhouse is in for a busy weekend. On Saturday he will line-out for the Tyrone Under-20s in the Ulster Final at Clones against Donegal, while 24 hours later he will don his green white and gold club colours as Carmen head off to Creggan to compete against another Tir Chonail opponent in the form of St Eunan’s Letterkenny in the first round of the Ulster Club Under-21Tournament.

He will certainly hope that weather conditions are more benign than they were last weekend.

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In 2019 the sun was splitting the trees during the course of the Red Hand run to provincial glory, but this year with the seasonal switch in the fixtures calendar conditions have been different- a lot different.

Last Saturday the defending champions had to endure an arctic blizzard in Lavey as well as an obdurate challenge from opponents Antrim before booking their berth in the Final for the second year running.

Once again full-back Cormac Munroe was one of the stand-out performers for Tyrone providing a commanding presence as he patrolled on the edge of his own square, and driving up the pitch with real authority on occasions.

The hard-fought 0-11 to 0-9 semi-final triumph has set up a meeting with Donegal in this Saturday’s provincial decider at Clones.

The nucleus of the current Tyrone squad won the inaugural All-Ireland U17 title back in 2017 but Munroe remembers during the course of that successful campaign being involved in a gruelling battle with Donegal.

“We beat them a few years ago in the Under-17s and we know they have some real quality players.

“Donegal are always a tough, physical team and I suppose a bit like the last couple of weekends the weather could be a factor too. But it’s just great to get to another Ulster Final.”

Munroe acknowledged that conditions at Lavey on Saturday were poor but joked that the pitches at Tyrone’s Centre of Excellence tend to be just as exposed to the elements

“The conditions were bad but I suppose there are nights we are used to the same in Garvaghey so we are well prepared for anything weather-wise. It was no real change for us.

“In the first half we were playing into the snow. It was hard to get the ball into the forwards although we controlled it well enough, but it was a struggle to get scores. We settled well in the second half and eventually got going.”

No doubt the wrath of ‘Storm Jorge’ meant that the match was something of a slog at the weekend, offering little in the way of a spectacle. Tyrone played into the teeth of the slow flurry in the first half and Cormac admitted they were relatively content to be only trailing 0-4 to 0-2 at the break.

“It’s a whole different ball game to playing the Championship in the summer. Matches (in winter) tend to be real battles and more low scoring. It is a test of your ball handling, and at times you could see it slipped away from both sides.

“Even though we were losing we were happy enough at half-time because we knew the strength of the breeze out there which would favour us in the second half.

“With the wind we knew to get the ball in early to try and get scores. Compared to the first half where we had to be more patient and work the ball up the pitch to try and get in a shot. We got a few nice scores in the second half to push on.”

Tyrone have now been pushed to the pins of their collar two weekend running in the Championship (they beat Armagh after extra time in the first round) and Munroe hopes the experience of those taxing encounters will stand to them at St Tiernach’s Park.

“We haven’t had the best of starts in both games. They have both been a real grind up until the last few minutes. But hopefully that will stand to us come the final. It’s good to have two really competitive matches under our belts.

“It would be great to win it again. It’s completely different competition because of the weather and pitch conditions compared to last year but it would be just as sweet.”

FULL STORY IN THURSDAY’S STRABANE CHRONICLE

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The Strabane Chronicle is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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