IT has been an outstanding debut season in a Tyrone shirt for Neil Kilpatrick.
Neil, whose father Adrian was an All Ireland U21 medal winner and whose brother Conn joined the Tyrone senior squad this season, is really adapting to County football, and played an integral role in the Under-20s progress to Ulster Championship glory in early March, as they retained their provincial crown.
The Edendork man was hoping that run continued with the Red Hands due to take on Leinster champions Dublin at Croke Park on St.Patrick’s Day, but that fixture unfortunately fell victim to the coronavirous outbreak.
Prior to that Kilpatrick had produced three fine displays in the Ulster Under-20 Championship at wing half back where his high energy levels and attacking prowess in particular came to the fore.
The Red Hands took extra time to dispatch with the threat of Armagh in the opening round before edging past a dogged Antrim side in the semi-final at a snowy Loup, and dispatching with Donegal then in the decider at Clones.
Neil feels that what they achieved in Ulster this season so far has a lot to do with honest hard work and commitment.
“We had been training for months with the boys doing work that no other side would be doing and it showed against Donegal”, said the St Malachy’s young star.
“We are a tight group with every player willing to do what it takes for each other and the team. Tiarnan Quinn was saying it’s similar to the closeness that they had last year as a panel with everybody working as hard as they can for each other.
“As a defence we get ourselves sorted first and foremost and then we try to get it to the shooters up front and then work of them and they just pop the scores.”
In the Ulster Final Tyrone cut loose in the second half to run out comfortable winners in the end enabing Neil to pocket his first Ulster medal in his first season.
“This is my first ever involvement with Tyrone so it’s without doubt the best year that I have had so far as a footballer,” admitted Neil.
“I have been working very hard to get onto the panel firstly and then try and get on the team and I have managed to do that but we have a strong squad and you have to keep playing well and working hard to ensure that you stay there.”
Kilpatrick was thrilled to claim a provincial crown with that recent victory over Donegal at Clones.
“To win an Ulster title is unbelievable. Donegal really put it up to us but we expected nothing less from them as they are a really good side with a number of quality players.”
While the young Tyrone squad were cruelly denied their opportunity to make an outing at Headquarters because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Neil still hopes to get a crack at the Dubs.
“To get a chance to play Dublin in Croke Park is the stuff that dreams are made of. That’s the place where any footballer wants to play. You couldn’t get better opposition at a better venue.”
With the unparalleled success that the Dublin senior side have enjoyed for a number of years they will be keen to maintain that form at U20 level and Kilpatrick has no doubts that a number of their players will
be eager to make the step up to the senior panel. They move the ball quickly and at pace and have quality players
in key positions throughout the field.
“We have played well in stages against Armagh, Antrim and Donegal but there is no doubt that our performance will have to be better and for longer spells against Dublin when hopefully the match is played if we are to have any chance of reaching the All Ireland final.”