Tyrone are a different animal this year. Unlike in previous campaigns, they’re not talking about Ulster finals; they’re talking about going on and winning an All-Ireland.
They’ve come up short in the semi-finals the last couple of seasons, and I just think this time they’re going to push on. Against Donegal, we made them look like wee boys; we were simply awesome. Everything we kicked went over.
After that result, I think we’re now in a position to challenge the likes of Dublin and Kerry, who I feel are the only teams that can stop Tyrone. Mayo have stuttered past different teams this year, and if the two sides meet I think the boys could do a job on them.
Tyrone are now fully intent on going all the way, and I believe they have the squad and the management in place to do that.
Mickey Harte, in particular, thrives on the big day. He’ll leave no stone unturned, and goes through his preparation with a fine-tooth comb. He’ll know who to follow around the field; he’ll know who needs to be man-marked. That’s where managers earn their corn, and he’s a top class manager when it comes to finals.
I’m not saying Tyrone are massive world-beaters but this year they’ve tended to leave a forward up front, which they haven’t done in years gone by. In the past, it was totally defensive. Now, they’re keeping Mark Bradley upfield and it gives them a new dimension.
There’s always a target-man to hit, and Tyrone’s willingness to get forward is a joy to watch.
I don’t think they were completing the attack last year, so it looked defensive. There was nobody in the attacking areas, but now they rotate Cavanagh and Bradley constantly. Sometimes the defence come and join them, and you then see Mattie Donnelly coming into his own. He scored four points from play last time out, which is a massive boost for a midfielder and for Tyrone’s objective to win titles.
I just hope for the sake of the game on Sunday that it wasn’t Down’s final against Monaghan. They set the tone in the first five minutes of that match with a hard tackle on Conor McManus, which showed their intent. They were like men possessed.
It’s the first time I’ve seen Down play for each other and their manager in quite a while. I know Eamonn Burns has come in for some stick, but Down were awesome that day. It’s great for Down football. I think they’re back, and if they can get a result here it will have a major bearing on their future.
But I just can’t see it. I fancy Tyrone strongly.
The key battle is in the midfield area, and I don’t think Peter Turley will be a match for Donnelly. I know Tyrone have won that contest in any game they’ve had this year, and Mattie is one of the best midfielders in Ireland at the minute. He has two allstars and is going really well; if Down can cancel him and Bradley out, and stop the running from the likes of Tiernan McCann they’ve a great chance.
But it’s easier said than done. This is a massive ask for Down, and it’s hard to say where Tyrone’s weaknesses are.
At times they can tend to fall asleep when they go ahead and let the other team back into it, but I think it’s different this year. They seem to have a stronger focus, and they play right to the final whistle.
They’ve lost semi-finals against Mayo in the last two seasons because of free-kick takers, so there needs to be one free taker, and in my opinion it should be Cavanagh. He’s an experienced player. Look at the honours he’s got; he should be taking things by the scruff of the neck and putting them over the bar, which he can do.
If they can get a clinical free kick taker over the final stages of the season, that’s what will take them over the line.