Owen Mulligan: Mickey Harte hates being beaten, bring on Monaghan

Tyrone legend Owen Mulligan is backing the Red Hands to succeed over Monaghan in what will come down to a battle of wits between managers...

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You’re going to think I’m crazy here, but I really fancy Tyrone and I reckon they’d be a great bet to win by (-4) at 5/2.

I don’t believe Monaghan have the capability to beat Tyrone twice in the same calendar year, it’s just a massive ask.

Mickey Harte is a shrewd manager and he hates getting beaten. He will relish the chance to right the wrongs from Tyrone’s Ulster Championship encounter with Monaghan, and he’ll have learned so much from that game.

In all his time as Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has only been beaten in a ‘replay’ once and that was in 2005 against Armagh. We then went on to beat that side in the semi-final before going on to win the All-Ireland.

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This game will boil down to which manager will learn the most from their previous encounter and no manager takes more out of these games than Harte – trust me on that.

We saw against Donegal that he has an amazing bench to come on and he’ll have them raring to go for this game.

Harte got his game management spot on last weekend. When we needed more legs and penetration he got it in the form of Kiernan McGeary and Lee Brennan. Then the goal getters – Harry Loughran and Declan McClure – came on to seal the victory.

Tyrone’s bench ended up scoring 2-6 in a 20-min period. This is on par with the Dubs’ bench in recent years, where they can run the bench full of match winners.

Lee Brennan took the game by the scruff of the neck and scored points at vital times, while Loughran showed a lot of bravery diving to punch the ball to the net after a super spot from Tiernan McCann.

Harte is now finishing with a better team than he started with, and the last team I saw doing that were the All-Ireland champions. This is a massive luxury for any manager.

Keepers hold the key to All-Ireland final door

When the mix up near the end of the first half between Niall Morgan and Pádraig  Hampsey happened, you could sense the Tyrone fans sink.

Personally, I didn’t think the kick was on, and whether Hampsey called it or not, he didn’t attack the ball. He was static.

The kick out wasn’t the best either as it just dropped awkwardly in front of him, meaning he had to bend his back, so that gave an advantage to Ryan McHugh to steal in and rob the Tyrone defender.

I’ve slated Morgan in the past, but what he did in the second half took some balls and you have to give him credit. Niall wouldn’t have had the best of times around Ballybofey in recent years and with the game still in the balance added to Brennan on kicking scores, it would have been easy to shy away from the kick and stay in goals.

But, he showed serious leadership and calmness to put himself forward to stroke a vital late free high over the bar, which must have been some feeling and relief for him. The smile on his face as he ran back to his goal, after what was a magic kick, was priceless.

Menacing Monaghan

Monaghan have really kicked on and the Super 8 system seems to suit them. They’ve played some big teams and beat them as well, which is always a good sign.

Momentum can be huge for teams at this stage of the Championship and in Malachy O’Rourke they have one of the cleverest operators in the country.

He has them playing a system that gets the best out of his players and they have the best forward in the country in Conor McManus. He really is special and everything goes through him.

If he goes out the field they give it to him, he’s a complete player. If Tyrone can stop him, we’ve a great chance. McManus is a gigantic threat and Harte will have him in their crosshairs this weekend.

Now Monaghan are in the semi, so they have that last 8 monkey off their back. They’ll be relishing taking on Tyrone because they know what they’re about.

Tyrone will be cautious, but very confident at the same time. It’s going to be a hell of a game.

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