Tom Gray, Under 20 Dublin manager, pictured ahead of the EirGrid Under 20 Football All-Ireland Final this Saturday. EirGrid, the state-owned company that manages and develops Ireland's electricity grid, has partnered with the GAA since 2015 as sponsor of the U20 GAA Football All-Ireland Championship.
Tom Gray, Under 20 Dublin manager, pictured ahead of the EirGrid Under 20 Football All-Ireland Final this Saturday. EirGrid, the state-owned company that manages and develops Ireland's electricity grid, has partnered with the GAA since 2015 as sponsor of the U20 GAA Football All-Ireland Championship.

Tom Gray expecting open encounter


By Cian O'Connell

"It's been a long year," Dublin Under 20 manager Tom Gray says about a mammoth campaign.

Gray, though, is simply grateful that the EirGrid All Ireland Under 20 final will take place at Croke Park on Saturday afternoon.

Two lockdowns have been part of daily life during the pandemic so Gray is realistic about what has unfolded.

"You have to keep things in context," Gray adds. "We had a zoom call with the players after the All-Ireland final was deferred. 

"I was making the point that 100,000 people were made unemployed in Ireland in October because of the move to Level 5 so we have little enough to be complaining about. "It's a hobby and you're looking to develop players.

"It has been a challenge, in the players' lives, forget about sport, in terms of college and their normal social lives. "Obviously it's a unique experience for us all so in that respect it's been a challenge for them. I think we need to keep things in context. It's a game of football, it's a hobby."

Gray is eager to develop this generation of Dublin players and stresses the manner in which everybody has been forced to adapt to new ways and methods.

"Obviously they're trying to be the best they can be so...you get on with it is how I'd characterise it, all you can do is control the stuff you're doing yourself," Gray states. 

"But it's been a long year. This Monday or this Tuesday last year we were in St Anne's Bohernabreena at 9 o'clock on a Monday night and it was absolutely bucketing out of the heavens.

Dublin Under 20 manager Tom Gray.
Dublin Under 20 manager Tom Gray.

"I have a clear recollection of that so it was a long year from that point of view. 

"When you were looking at training and preparation last December you were thinking of the competition finishing in March. So, it's different but it's been different for everybody."

Considering the fractured nature of the competition it is difficult to analyse opponents Galway.

"Obviously we saw their semi-final against Kerry on TG4," Gray remarks. "They were missing at least three, maybe four starters. So I think the only lesson we can take out of that is that they have a very strong panel. 

"It'll be a challenge for us. They were very impressive for us that day against Kerry. Tomo Culhane would have played full-forward and scored 10 points in an All-Ireland minor final last year. He's obviously a very talented footballer. 

"Paul Kelly, who plays in the middle of the field, played senior football championship with Galway this year so he's obviously very talented. 

"The left half-back, Cathal Sweeney, I think he scored a huge pile in the Connacht championship. I haven't seen him playing so I've no idea what he's like but look, they're three strong players, they've a fourth guy from Moycullen as well who I think was starting in the Connacht championship. 

"Look, it's a challenge but given the nature of the season and the fact that it's stop, start, our focus has to be on what we can do and how best we can prepare as regards our game plan. 

"My experience of Under 20 football is that they tend to be quite open games and I've no doubt next Saturday will be something similar."