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EirGrid Ulster U20 Final: Derry v Tyrone – Match preview, team lineouts, crucial players

Derry v Tyrone

Box-It Athletic Grounds, 5.15pm (live on TG4 YouTube)

Referee: Diarmuid Boylan (Muineachán)

In the eyes of many, both teams tonight would have been pegged as the frontrunners from the start of the competition.

They have been regular participants in the Donall Ó Murchú Cup in recent years. Tyrone are back in the decider after winning in 2022, while Derry have returned to atone for last year’s final defeat to Down.

Medals are not scarce in either dressing room. The past four Electric Ireland Ulster Minor Championships have landed in these two provinces – Derry in 2020 and 2023, Tyrone in 2021 and 2022 – which gives you a taste of the dominance these groups of players have had on the provincial stage.

Tyrone’s squad features several survivors from their All-Ireland U20 winning side of two years ago, while a number of players also have at least one Hogan Cup medal from Omagh CBS’ back-to-back successes in recent seasons.

Derry’s pedigree, meanwhile, is complemented by All-Ireland glory that followed both those Minor provincial crowns in 2020 (played a year later due to Covid) and in 2023.

They both had a tough assignment last Wednesday to take their place here tonight. Tyrone were pushed to the end by Monaghan in Omagh, with goals from Cormac Devlin and Ronan Fox either side of half-time, keeping their noses in front to end a brave Farney challenge by one point.

In Ballybofey, Derry had to fight back from a three-point deficit midway through the leg against Donegal. A super goal from Oisín Doherty put them back in the lead, but Donegal leveled deep into stoppage time. The game appeared to be heading into overtime, but on a final drive downfield, Ryan McNicholl scored the priceless winning point with the final kick of the game. Ecstasy for Derry, pain for Donegal.

A similarly close finish played out when the two teams met in the third round of the group stage at Celtic Park a month ago. With both sides possibly aware that they would face each other again somewhere further down the line, a tense tactical battle ensued with very little given away on either side, five apiece at half-time.

But soon the match would open up to offer more flair and excitement, with the Red Hands in front going into the final ten minutes, protecting a three-point lead, only for Johnny McGuckian to race past a few tackles and slot home a goal. the 63rd minute. However, there was still time for Tyrone’s Gavin Potter to overcome a winning point in a dramatic finish.

With all that in mind there will be very little between the teams again tonight as the cream of the crop in Ulster U20 football face off once again.

DERRY

  1. Callum Armstrong
  2. Fionn McEldowney
  3. James Murray
  4. Rory Klein
  5. Conleth McGrogan
  6. Patrick McGurk (C)
  7. Danny McDermott
  8. Ruairi Forbes
  9. Conall Heron
  10. Cahir Spires
  11. Ryan McNicholl
  12. Johnny McGuckian
  13. Niall O’Donnell
  14. Eoin Higgins
  15. Oisin Doherty
  16. Ben O’Connor
  17. Tommy Rogers
  18. Ordran Murphy
  19. Rory McGill
  20. Sean Young
  21. Shea McCann
  22. Ronan Walls
  23. Ciaran Rooms
  24. Dara McPeake

TYRON

  1. Conor McAneny
  2. Joey Clarke
  3. Ben Hughes
  4. Conor Devlin
  5. Shea O’Hare
  6. Michael Rafferty (C)
  7. Ódhrán Brolly
  8. Ronan Fox
  9. Conor O’Neill
  10. Cormac Devlin
  11. Eoin McElholm
  12. Gavin Potter
  13. Ruairí McCullagh
  14. Ronan Cassidy
  15. Callum Daly
  16. Conan McGarvey
  17. Fiachra Donnelly
  18. Paddy McCann
  19. Noah Grimes
  20. Conor Owens
  21. Liam Óg Mossey
  22. Hugh J Cunningham
  23. Ronan Donnelly
  24. Callan Kelly

Crucial players

DerryFionn McEldowney

The Slaughtneil dynamo this year joined an elite group of players selected for the Danske Bank Ulster Schools All-star teams in hurling and football two years in a row.

He captained the Derry Minor footballers to the Ulster and All-Ireland football titles last summer, stepping in to captain this year’s team in the early rounds when regular captain Patrick McGurk was unavailable.

McEldowney possesses many of the characteristics of an elite defender: dynamic, tenacious, quick and despite his relatively small stature, more than capable of competing for possession against physically tougher opposition.

However, his mentality and game intelligence are what really sets him apart. A great reader of the game, he also displays excellent positioning, distribution of the ball and a willingness to drive forward when the opportunity presents itself. A win tonight would add another accolade to an already illustrious young career.

TyroneEoin McElholm

While Tyrone’s attacking department is packed with talent, McElholm is the spark at centre-forward who poses the biggest threat. He is an excellent scorer and has a special talent for delivering the goods on the big days.

He will be well known to Derry’s opponents tonight, having scored two goals against them in Tyrone’s 4-08 to 0-16 win in the Ulster Minor Football Championship final two years ago.

The Loughmacrory ace was one of the stars of the Tyrone team that secured back-to-back Ulster Minor titles (serving as second captain), and was excellent for school. Omagh CBS powered their way to winning the MacRory and Hogan Cups last year.

His status as a rising star was noticed by AFL scouts when he was invited to a two-week ‘combine’ last September, recording a particularly impressive sprint test time in the top 10 to further highlight his athletic abilities.