Red hand-me-downs – family ties define Tyrone’s future


If you were a Tyrone football fan of the 1990s and haven’t watched a game since then, a cursory glance at the U20s gauge will forgive you for rubbing your eyes in disbelief.

In the Ulster final against Cavan at Brewster Park, Ruairi Canavan had the perfect angle for the fans behind him to capture a magnificent touchline ball that was shot over the bar with just the right momentum. At that moment it was like looking at his father Peter.

At some point in last weekend’s All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry, Michael McGleenan took over the ball. He worked his way through a couple of challenges and when another defender pulled away from him, he sought contact to push him back before taking a shot thrown over the bar.

In no way did he look any different than his father, Mattie, in that sequence.

That’s just the beginning.

They have Conor Cush, son of Adrian, who was Peter Canavan’s attacking partner for many years during his minor and senior career.

Plunkett Donaghy was retired at the time of the 1995 All-Ireland Final but was playing with the aforementioned trio. His son Stevie is on that U-20 body.

James Donaghy, full-back, is a cousin of McGleenan.

Sean O’Donnell, the red-haired attacker from Trillick, is a cousin of Ruairi Canavan and a nephew of Peter.

Ronan McGarrity is a nephew of Ronan McGarrity, who played in the 1995 final, and – again – a cousin of Ruairi Canavan and nephew of Peter; his aunt is Finola, married to Peter.

The further you go, the more connections there are. Some of them are more obscure, like Harry Morgan from Dungannon, whose father Chris played underage and under-21 football in the county. And all of these guys are managed by Paul Devlin, who played with their fathers in the 1990s and was a cornerback on the 1995 All-Ireland finals team.

It also skips a generation.

Cormac Devlin by Ardboe is a son of Gavin, a two-time All-Ireland winner in 2003 and 2005, who then began a long coaching career as Mickey Harte’s assistant and is still with him at Louth.

Last year, a similar article traced senior teams’ ties to past Tyrone teams, noting that most members of the starting team had relatives who had also carried the Red Hand, such as Conor Meyler (father Seanie) and the Donnelly brothers Matthew and Richard (father Liam), while Darragh Canavan’s father is also very well documented at this point.

Eunan Lindsay is a hurling officer for the Tyrone County Board and a past vice chairman. He has a particular interest in appearance statistics, having sat down through lockdown to compile the names and appearances of everyone proven to have played for the county.

“It’s possibly more remarkable when you see these names keep popping up year after year after year.

“I’m sure it happens in other counties too, but it could be because Tyrone has been so successful since 1986 that these guys have had an age and a time.

“It’s very noticeable at this stage that certain bloodlines are coming through. With a bit of luck, it will go on for a long time.”

What’s really remarkable is how some of these players resemble their fathers in the way they play in an almost frightening way.

“If your name is Darragh Canavan, you will never be a corner back. Otherwise you never get into the cornerback,” emphasizes Lindsay.

One last example for you that shows the range of these things.

Omagh’s Eoin Corry is also on the podium. He is a grandson of Paddy Corey who played in the first Tyrone team that won a senior Ulster title in 1956.

The spellings described here are correct. The relationship stems from Eoin’s mother, a Corey, who married a Corry. Red hand-me-downs – family ties define Tyrone’s future

Fry Electronics Team

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