Council Chair hosts a reception for Tyrone Under 17s, Tyrone Under 20s and Tyrone Hurlers

27th February 2023

IMG 0131

Fellow Councillors, ladies and gentlemen

As Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, I am delighted to welcome you all here to The Grange, Omagh this evening for this reception in honour of the Tyrone Under 17 Ulster Minor Champions, Tyrone Under 20 All Ireland Champions and Tyrone Hurlers Nickey Rackard Cup Champions.

In May 2022, the Under 17 team won the Ulster Minor Championship title, retaining it for another year.

At time throughout the competition to gave your Manager, Gerard Donnelly, and your supporters a few nerve wrecking moments, particularly in the semi-final against Donegal which ended in a penalty shootout.  However, you kept your cool on the pitch to win the shootout and claim your well deserved place in the Final.

The final was played in Clones against neighbours Derry and you claimed the title following a 4-08 to 0-16 win.

The Under 20s All Ireland Championship began with claiming victory in the Ulster Championship with a closely contested match against Cavan.

The All Ireland final saw you take on Kildare and, an early goal after 19 seconds gave you the ideal start, however, Kildare quickly responded from the kick out.

Points from Ciaran Bogue and Dan Muldoon gave you the lead, however, once again Kildare struck back and took the lead by the 18th minute.  This was the only time they held the lead as your teamwork and determination saw you take the lead and you went into half time with a 1-9 to 1-5 advantage.

Kildare came out strong in the second half, however, Ruairi Canavan, the Man of the Match, helped to ease the nerves with a score.  The match continued to be hotly contested, however, you dug deep and took the game to another level.

Kildare continued to exert pressure, however, your determination to win was stronger and the inspiration from Ruairi Canavan helped you to remain focussed and eventually claim the much deserved title.

The success and skill of the team was rightfully recognised when Niall Devlin, Ruairi Canavan, Brian Conway, Eoin Corry and Seanie O’Donnell were named in EirGrid’s 20 under 20  the top 20 players in the Under 20s Championship in 2022.

I would be remiss of me to not mention at this stage, the late John Rafferty, who played for the Tyrone 20s and unfortunately was tragically killed in a road traffic accident in October 2022.

The Nickey Rackard competition for the Hurling Team began on 10 April 2022 with the round robin stages.

Following the Group stages you were 2nd behind Roscommon who you would eventually meet in the final on 21 May 2022.

Having lost in the final in 2021, there was determination throughout the team to claim victory.

At this point, I want us to remember Damien Casey who was a key player in the team and who also tragically lost his life in June 2022.  In the match Damien scored 14 points which was a testament to his skill and this was recognised when he was posthumously named on the Ring, Rackard and Meagher Team of the Year alongside Dermot Begley and Chris Kearns.

The team powered to an early lead with points from Casey and CJ McGourty.  Roscommon tried to exert pressure, however, the strong Tyrone defence managed to keep the Connaught team out.

Approaching half time, you had a ten point lead and Roscommon produced a late rally to close the gap before half time.

Roscommon came out strong after the break and closed the gap further to a five point difference.  However, you kept your cool and, with the skill and determination you showed early in the first half, you deservedly went on to claim the title.

As well as skill, all team sports require commitment to training, good communication on the pitch and determination to succeed and be at the top of the game.  All three teams showed this in abundance throughout your respective competitions.

It also requires strong and inspirational leadership, both on and off the field and again, all three teams were fortunate to have this.

The Under 17s with Manager Gerard Donnelly and Captain Eoin McElholm; the Under 20s with Manager Paul Devlin and Captain Niall Devlin; and the Hurling team with Manager Michael McShane and Captain Conor Grogan.

On behalf of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, and on my own behalf, I would like to congratulate each and every player, Manager and the backroom staff on your success.  To play at Ulster and All Ireland level is a significant achievement and to win is special and something you will remember and treasure forever.

You have all done yourselves, your families, your Clubs, your County and your District and I wish you every success for the future.  I am confident that all teams will enjoy further success in the years ahead.