Red Hand expected route to glory would have to go through Meath, says Enda McGinley

The counties meet in the All-Ireland minor football championship decider today.

Image: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

TYRONE GREAT Enda McGinley reckons the Red Hands always knew they’d have to beat Meath to win the Electric Ireland All-Ireland Minor Football title.

Two all-action provincial winners will face off in a potential Croke Park classic this afternoon (1pm).

Tyrone streaked through Ulster with 53 points to spare before demolishing Cork by 14 points in the semi-final last weekend.

As for Cathal O Bric’s Meath, they retained the Leinster title with a big final win over Dublin and then took out Connacht winners Sligo last Saturday.

Former Electric Ireland All-Ireland Minor winner McGinley said: “From reading the media and chatting to some of the lads in Tyrone, I think Tyrone were very aware of this Meath team from a good way out.

“They’d picked up that Meath were a very significant team in Leinster and it’s played out that they’ll meet Meath in the final. I don’t think that will come as a huge shock to Tyrone, the top teams always seem to have a way of finding out about each other.”

McGinley was part of Mickey Harte’s star studded Tyrone Minor team that won in 1998. Stephen O’Neill, Owen Mulligan and Brian McGuigan also graduated from that team to win three All-Ireland senior titles in the 2000s.

Current Antrim senior boss McGinley is optimistic about the future for many of the current Tyrone minors.

Ronan Cassidy, Eoin McElholm and captain Cormac Devlin have scored heavily while their defence has conceded just nine points per game on average.

McGinley said: “They’re really, really miserly at the back and yet they have an attacking flair – it’s an exciting combination.

“If you play a pretty open and attacking game, it generally demands a massive level of communication and responsibility and game awareness. Players have to know when to attack and when to provide cover, there’s a constant interchange there.

“For that all to work as well as it has for Tyrone shows they’re a pretty mature group.”

McGinley has been impressed by powerful midfielder Ruairi McHugh, skipper Devlin and defender Michael Rafferty.

Tyrone’s bench has been consistently strong too with Conor Owens returning 0-1, 0-4, 1-1 and 0-4 tallies as an impact sub in their four games so far.

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McGinley would ultimately love Ger Donnelly’s young Red Hands to experience the joy of Electric Ireland All-Ireland Minor success like he did in 1998.

McGinley said: “I got a goal in the ’98 final into the old Canal End. There was a big contingent of Tyrone fans there and I ended up right against the endline after scoring. I remember screaming out loud in celebration and literally not being able to hear myself. I was blown away by the noise of the crowd. It’s a brilliant memory that I never forgot.”

Tyrone will have plenty of support again because the Electric Ireland Minor final precedes the senior semi-final between Tyrone and Kerry.

McGinley said: “I would be expecting the vast majority of Tyrone supporters will come early and watch both games. That’s something that can help the team – but it can also bring pressure too. There will be a lot of noise and the players will be experiencing Croke Park for the first time.”

* The Electric Ireland All-Ireland Minor Football Final between Tyrone and Meath throws in at 1pm at Croke Park and will be live on TG4.

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Paul Keane

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