Sports

U17s ready to bring All-Ireland title back ‘Holme’

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Tyrone manager Collie Holmes praised his players for their application and hard work in overcoming a determined Meath side in the All-Ireland U17 Football Championship semi-final.

The Red Hands are heading for Croke Park for the final on 27 August, thanks to a seven points victory over the Leinster champions at Kingspan Breffni

"We had no time on the ball. Every time you stepped inside a Meath man, there was another jersey, big, strong and physical," said treble All-Ireland winner Holmes.

"They probably turned us back more than any team this year. We have been used to getting past the first tackle. But that's something you expect, you don't walk into an All-Ireland final with your hands on your hips and no sweat running down you.

"So we're more than happy with the effort the boys put in. It wasn't as pacey, but that's due to the dogged test that Meath gave us." Ethan Jordan's early goal helped settle the Red Hands, but their manager felt they were going for the net at times when they should have settled for points.

"It got us settled, but then big Cormac (Donnelly) went for one and it was a great effort, but maybe we should have tapped the ball over the bar.

"We got into that habit, then we kept the scoreboard ticking over, but towards the end of the game we got into that again, whereas if we had taken our points, maybe we would have had it a bit easier.

"But we're more than happy with the effort of the boys, we crossed the line, job done." Tyrone went into the game on the back of a two-month lay-off, but Holmes wasn't unduly concerned that the team would be rusty.

"The boys had holidays, there's Gaeltacht on, lots happening. Meath had momentum, they were going, but we had our break. These lads are still all schoolboys, bar two lads who are working.

"There's a freshness and you could see it there. It's all about being ready for the 60 minutes, and the boys who h ave n't been away have worked hard and kept that momentum going.

"The panel of 42 have really applied themselves, and we're very grateful for those numbers, for many's a panel wouldn't be allowed to carry that size, but it has really helped us keep the energy at training. It's fantastic." Tyrone are now 60 minutes away from an All-Ireland title, but their manager feels the development of talent for future teams is more important than the trophy on offer.

"The goal of the Academy is not about winning an All-Ireland Special Championship. It's to develop the 45 lads who will go on to play schools, universities, clubs, county. That's the ultimate goal," said Holmes.

"This is a fantastic bonus along the way, for us to keep pressing ourselves as coaches and as players.

"So the ultimate goal of the Academy is to keep this so-called Tyrone conveyer belt rolling." With Tyrone and Dublin playing on the same bill at Croke Park, it's expected to be a sell-out, but Holmes understands that many Tyrone supporters will not make it to Croke Park in time for the noon throw-in.

"There's a bit of a gap between the games, so we'll understand if they don't. But for 16 and 17-year-olds it's a special place. There'll be a great atmosphere, with the build-up.

"We're training on Pitch 2 in Garvaghey and the seniors are training on Pitch 3. There's no better place for these lads to be.

"Monday night we were training, and Peter Harte, the Donnellys were all out shooting. This is what these boys need to be doing, rubbing shoulders with one of the top four teams in Ireland." The excitement is not confined to the players. The management team is also enjoying the journey and looking forward to going to Croke Park.

"We 'll keep them grounded, but it's exciting for us too you know. We came in at the start of the year, there was a league, there was a championship, and all of a sudden this starts to open up.

"It's where you want to be as a coach, as a player, as a squad. The lads have given up a lot of time, they have spent a lot of hours behind the scenes, doing the video work, driving down the country to see these teams. So all the coaches fully deserve this as much as the players." But the prospect of making an appearance at Croke Park was not a distraction in the build-up to the clash with Meath.

"Would it be a distraction? Well it definitely wasn't. It was one of the reasons for us to get into this competition, to take it seriously," said Holmes.

"There's no better place to be than training for an All-Ireland final in Croke Park." A dogged Meath side made the Red Hands work hard for their seven points win, closing the gap to two while playing with wind advantage in the second half.

"We weren't as accurate as we have been in the past, but it's all about getting over the line. A semi-final is for winning, crossing the line, and that's what we did.

"We had our gap at half-time of four points, and we increased that in the second half into a fairly stiff breeze that picked up here and there.

"We were happy enough with the second half definitely. We could have left it a lot harder for ourselves if they had got a goal.

"Some boys had detailed jobs to do, and we played very solidly as a defensive unit. And then when you pinpoint a man or two, they will track to the letter of the law, they'll follow every word."

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