Electric Ireland Ulster Minor Football Championship
Corrigan Park 6-00pm Saturday
Antrim v Tyrone
After an outstanding six point away win (2-11 to 0-11) to a much-fancied Monaghan team in the first round of the Electric Ireland Ulster Minor Football championship, the young Saffrons take the field again this Saturday night at Corrigan Park (6pm) against the reigning Ulster Champions and provincial favourites, Tyrone. The Antrim minors, co-managed by Paul McErlean and Barry Burns, took a sizable beating, 4-13 to 0-8, from Tyrone in the Ulster Minor League in Donaghmore on March 19th so Tyrone, who also won the League final against Derry, will go into the game as clear favourites. Barry Burns though, who this writer remembers scoring a wonder goal for the 1996 Antrim Minors in Casement Park to beat Cavan in the first round of the Ulster Championship, is unworried about the young Saffrons’ underdog tag. “This great group of boys has shown already they have both character and real ability. Very few gave us a chance against Monaghan after they stuffed us in the league but we knew our lads had the ability to win and we know they can get better. “But we also know how good this Tyrone team is – so it will require a huge performance from us – but we are going into the game in a positive way, as we did against Monaghan.
Tyrone, who were narrowly beaten in the All-Ireland minor final last year, beat Cavan in the first round 3-17 to 1-15 and they clearly have a potent forward line, led by one of the stars from last year’s campaign, their captain Eoin McElholm. Antrim’s captain is Tiernan McCormick from Moneyglass, who won a Rannafast Cup with St Pat’s Maghera this year. Moneyglass has five players in the squad including Sean Boyd who also won a Rannafast medal with Maghera and Paul Duffin who, along with Conhuir Johnston from Erin’s Own, Cargin, won a MacRory with St Mary’s, Magherafelt this year. So, Antrim have serious pedigree too and a great blend of South West and South Antrim players with St Brigid’s, St Gall’s, St John’s, Gort na Mona and St Paul’s all contributing players from the city with other South West players from Glenravel, Aldergrove, Cargin and Portglenone’s Ciaran McAleese, who kicked two great points from play against Monaghan. The coaching team also blends country and city with Matthew ‘Huggy’ Gribbin from Cargin and Niall Enright from Gort Na Mona pulling the strings. As Paul McErlean says: “we have two of the best coaches in Ulster, the quality of our sessions has been superb throughout. Our strength and conditioning work with Thomas Rogan and our goalkeeping work, now being done by Colin Burgess from St Paul’s has been of the highest quality also. Colin has brilliantly managed the logistics and our video analysis from Mark McAreavey and nutritional support from the Balmoral Hotel have been top drawer too. We’ve also had great support from the County Board leadership and particularly Paddy Kelly, the Coaching Officer, so our feeling is that since last October, we’ve done our best to leave no stone unturned in our preparations for a championship game like this on Saturday night. Our boys are ready to go.” McErlean concluded.
Good luck to the young Saffrons on Saturday night from all at the Saffron Gael.