Owen Mulligan: Tyrone are streets ahead of everyone in Ulster

Our GAA Ambassador and all-round Red Hands’ legend feels his county are by far and away the top dogs in the northern province…

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There’s nothing like Championship time of year and I have to say, I strongly fancy Tyrone to win the Ulster Championship this year. They are streets ahead of everybody.

I’ll admit, I was worried about the first two league games because they had a couple of bad defeats to Kerry and Mayo. Tyrone were just not in gear at all and they looked flat-footed.

They were so far behind Kerry in Killarney, it was unbelievable. But look, it just takes one result to turn your season around and they got that against Monaghan.

Tyrone only missed the National League final by a single point in the end. That’s some recovery from just getting one point in their opening three games. Even the supporters believe they can go one step further now. I definitely believe they will take Ulster, no problem at all.

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Tyrone can’t go back into their shell

Cathal McShane has been a massive plus at full forward, he needs to stay there for Championship with Mattie Donnelly feeding off him. I just hope that Tyrone don’t stop doing it because the offensive mark is gone for Championship.

Tyrone have to use direct ball. Their kicking game was brilliant in the League and its class to watch the runners coming off the shoulder because they’re flying fit.

They can’t stop doing that now, because in championships gone by they’ve started to panic and drop everybody back. You can’t do that anymore, you have to go for the jugular when the game is in the balance. That’s player-driven, it’s not manager-driven. You have to say as a player push out, go man-to-man and mark up.

You’re cheating when you’re going back into blanket defence because you’re saying I’m not fit to mark this man so this man will cover me. You’re saying right, you’re going to do my job. I’ll drop back a number there.

If you push up on your man, you’ve a massive chance. It’s a no-brainer because the six games Tyrone showed all-out attack, they were getting the scores they needed.

Morgan worries me, but he’s become a leader

Niall Morgan has got everyone talking this season by rampaging forward from his goal. Personally, I kind of feel a bit sick when he comes out because there’s always that chance of losing the ball. However, he’s more than comfortable on the ball.

I’ve played against him in club games myself and he’s a good footballer. He’s so relaxed and he’s popping up with scores, so you can’t really fault him but there’s always that niggling worry chance he could cough up the ball.

Morgan is a risk-taker and that’s what you want in a team, somebody that showcases their skills.

He’s a massive player for Tyrone and has become a bit of a leader now. He’s got a presence about him, shouting at players and telling them what to do.

That’s what a goalkeeper has to do. You need to command that box and he does that. In years gone by, he was a wee bit timid. But now, he seemed to be taking it with two hands and driving the team on.

Dublin can be toppled

I reckon Dublin are vulnerable this year, especially in their full-back line. It showed in the League, Tyrone destroyed them for 40 minutes with high ball after high ball.

Kerry, Mayo and Tyrone are three teams that can catch them. But, it’s all to do with belief as well.

The Dubs are so good at sucking you in and then just bang, they hit you out of nowhere. You have to be on your game and be the aggressor in the battle. Of course, you’re going to give them respect, but you just have to meet Dublin head-on.

Dublin are the team to beat, there’s no doubt about that. They’re an exceptional bunch of lads with an extraordinary manager.

If they do five in a row, they’ll be the best team ever in the history of the GAA.

Dublin need both O’Carroll and Connolly to win the five in-a-row

I watched Rory O’Carroll in the Dublin championship and he’s still got the swagger. He’s still got the know-how to play full back and has the presence that’s required.

As for Diarmuid Connolly, he is one of the best players I have ever seen. The GAA misses him. What he does with the ball is exceptional, you’d go to Croke Park just to watch him because he’s that good.

He’ll look after himself too though, and he’s not afraid to go in for the tackle. We don’t know the ins and outs of why he’s not there.

But, I reckon Dublin will need both of them to collect that fifth historic All-Ireland title in a row this year.

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