Owen Mulligan: Tyrone need a win or the knives will be out for Harte

It’s win in Newbridge or nowhere for The Red Hands!

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After sweeping Tyrone aside in the Ulster semi-final, Donegal turned it up a notch on Sunday in the Ulster final and by half time the writing was on the wall for Cavan.

To score 1-24 in an Ulster final was a signal of intent. They also missed three goal chances in the first half, it could have been embarrassing for Cavan.

It used to be Michael Murphy and Paddy McBrearty who were trusted with all the scoring duties and if you marked them, Donegal would struggle.

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Now they’re blessed with scorers from all positions and all of their forwards scored on Sunday. Ryan McHugh, Paddy McGrath and Eoghan Bán Gallagher never stopped running all evening.

Jamie Brennan was his usual classy self and I’m really starting to enjoy watching him light up this Championship.

We are starting to sit up and take notice of Donegal and that question being asked, are they number one contenders to stop ‘the Drive for Five’?

At this early stage, I believe they’re the only ones showing any promise.

Shooting the lights out

Scoring 24 points in a Championship match, never mind a final, takes some doing. This is a major weapon Donegal have coming into the business end of the Championship. They have the ability to shoot confidently and freely over the bar.

With so many players able to slot them from so many positions, Donegal are a real threat going forward. They are a breath of fresh air really.

Apart from the Dubs, I don’t believe there’s a team in Ireland with so many players in their starting 15 capable of converting these sort of chances, which is a major plus.

Donegal defence a worry

Coming up against two Division 1 teams has provided a sterner test for Donegal. Tyrone scored 15 points and Cavan racked up a massive 2-16.

Declan Bonner has to sit up and take note though. When teams move the ball fast through the hands and come off the shoulder, Donegal have been cut open and it happened several times on Sunday.

Cavan got in for the scores with direct running at pace in the second half.

Donegal’s first-half performance against Tyrone and Cavan was breath-taking though, full of energy and played at a high tempo. Teams have to match that or they too will find themselves with too big of a margin to claw back.

Ryan McHugh and Eoghan Bán Gallagher are key to Donegal’s plans and if teams can single these two players out and stop them linking up with the attack, this will prevent them from leaking scores to Donegal.

The missing piece?

Odhrán Mac Niallais was a massive player for Donegal in the last few years and when he opted out it was a major blow for the county.

In big games, he stood up and took responsibility coming up with some massive scores and showing real leadership throughout.

But, it is very hard for a player to come back halfway through a Championship season, especially when they’ve already won silverware without him.

I believe Declan Bonner has left the door open for Mac Niallais and a player of his calibre would be welcomed. But, having taken a break for personal reasons, only Odhrán can make that decision.

Tyrone need to cheer up

It was a nothing game for Tyrone in Longford last Saturday. Win by ten points and you were playing a poor team. Don’t win by enough and you are a poor team.

It’s hard to know where we are with Tyrone at the minute. There are still loads of question marks floating around them.

When Mickey started running the bench the arse fell out of it a bit and Longford ended up posting a scoreline that flattered them.

Tyrone for their part look like a side not happy in their own skin.

I see too many long faces coming out of changing rooms after games. It all looks like too much hard work for them at present.

A trip to Kildare on Saturday night isn’t a nice place to go to start feeling better about yourself. A win is a must for Tyrone or the knives will be out for Harte. It’s very much a case of a win in ‘Newbridge or Nowhere’ for Tyrone this weekend.

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