Sports

'Mental strength' was key according to Premier boss

Thursday, 3 August 2017

TYRONE Premier manager David Harvey has praised the "unbelievable mental strength" of his players after a testing SuperCupNI campaign.

The U17s faced one of the toughest groups in the competition, with past champions Co. Antrim and O'Higgin's and unknown quantity Morning Star United Beijing providing stiff opposition in the opening three days.

"They never stopped one bit. When you've got the that last two winners in your group, the expectations wouldn't be high," said Harvey. "The hardest thing to do was to play two tough games in a row against past winners.

"The mental strength the lads shown was unbelievable, the camaraderie was there. I've seen the boys grow as people after last week. They are mentally and emotionally stronger, and they've left as men. It would have taken a lot to knock these boys down."

Tyrone opened their premier section campaign with impressive opening 3-1 win against Morning Star at Coleraine Showgrounds. Andrew Scott was the stand out performer, and he opened the scoring after just five minutes with a header. Beijing pulled a goal back from a free-kick before half-time, but goals from Tyler Anderson and Torigh Nicolas in the second half ensured victory.

Back at the Showgrounds the following day though, Harvey's young charges were brought back down to earth against holders O'Higgins, with the Chilean outfit displaying their might with a 6-0 win.

On Wednesday things didn't get any better, as high-flying Co. Antrim ran out 4-0 winners at Riada Stadium, Ballymoney.

"O'Higgins were quality, just outstanding. They are probably the most complete youth team I've seen, said Harvey. "We weren't surprised in how they won as we've seen them in previous years and knew what they were about. Pace and power, and high tempo all the time. Even losing 6-0, our keeper had a blinder.

"The defeat to Antrim, despite the scoreline, was a pretty even game. 1-0 down with ten minutes to go, the boys threw the kitchen sink at it and were just picked off at the end. It certainly it wasn't a fair reflection, and maybe losing 1-0 would have helped us finish further up the standings."

 

Those results left Tyrone in the Premier Bowl section where local rivals Co. Armagh awaited at a rainy Clough in Ballymena on Thursday, with the Orchard county earning the bragging rights with a 2-1 win thanks to a late Oisin Smyth goal.

After an entertaining first half full of end-to-end action, Armagh grabbed the lead on 58 minutes as Smyth hit a sweet freekick from the edge of the box after Adam Bishop brought down Leeman from the edge of the area.  Tyrone picked up their game thereafter and found their equaliser after brilliant work from Andrew Scott saw him beat the Armagh defence and pull the ball across to an onrushing attacker who planted the ball into the empty net with ease. 

With time running out the Red Hands thought they had got their second when Scott picked out Curran but he scooped his effort over the crossbar at the back post.  With three minutes to go though it would be the Orchard county who would steal the game when Smyth grabbed his second as he latched onto a corner to head the ball into the net past the despairing dive of Pollock.

Tyrone made sure they would round off the week on a high though ith a 1-0 win over Komazawa Uni FC, with Jamie Burke finishing off an excellent team goal midway through the first half for the winner.

"Armagh beat us in the last minute, and that was tough to take. We had only conceded one goal from a set piece up until that game, so it was disappointing to lose the game from a corner kick. The players were down because they had put so much into the game, and they knew they had a good chance.

"Friday was a very good performance agaist a well organised team, so it was nice to finish on a high."

 

Harvey definitely looks back on the week with fond memories full of plenty of positives, especially on how his players handled the pressure of their first game at the Showgrounds, which was broadcast live on the BBC website.

"At halftime on Monday you could see how nervous the players were. It was at the Showgrounds, and it was being televised. We spoke to them and calmed them down, and they were super in the second half.

"After the match the highlights were up online quickly, and everytime we scored we had the volume turned up loud and the boys would cheer, so we had a lot of fun."

Looking ahead to next year's tournaments, the manager is buoyed from what he saw from his squad this campaign, and also the commendable performances put in by Martin Gallagher's Juniors, and is ready to start putting in the work for 2018.

"I know who have for next year from the squad I already have and the ones who narrowly missed out, as well as Juniors coming up that are available. I'll be keeping a close eye out and the scouting process will kick off in a few months time.

"I'm looking forward to next year, hopefully the draw is a bit kinder to us, all being well."

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