Other monumental clashes with Tyrone + U21s

Ahead of Sunday’s NFL meeting with Tyrone (where it’s worth noting we only seem to meet them in the league at this stage of the year – every league clash with them back to 1995 has occurred in either March or April and this is the third year in a row where they’re our final opponents, apart from the knockout games, in the league), it’s worth briefly recalling past meetings with the Red Hand lads.

Our recent record against them is fairly good, with wins in both 2005 and 2007 and a draw in 2006. Last year’s win was particularly noteworthy, as we knocked four goals past them, three of which came from Conor Mortimor. They did stuff us in the league in 2004,which was the first match they played following Cormac McAnallen’s untimely death, but we then got our revenge later that year in the championship, by knocking the then defending All-Ireland champions out in the quarter-finals.

The two league meetings before then weren’t happy ones for us, as they beat us soundly, by 3-12 to 0-11, in the 2002 league semi-final and gave us an even bigger beating, by 3-11 to 1-5, the time we met before that, which was back in early 1995 in Division 2 of the league. Further back again (further back than my Results Archive stretches but I’m getting there, slowly but surely), we beat them in the 1989 All-Ireland semi-final on a scoreline of 0-12 to 1-6, to qualify for our first All-Ireland final in 38 years.

None of the above counts for much in terms of how Sunday’s encounter might go (and Paddy Power have installed Tyrone as 4/6 favourites for that one) but, as already noted, our recent league form against them has been good.

What would also be good is another Connacht U21 title: best of luck to the lads this evening as they face the Rossies in a repeat of last year’s decider. That one twelve months ago turned out to be a real demolition job and I don’t think too many would expect a similar outcome this evening. Another win, to complete a provincial three-in-a-row, would be nice all the same.

4 thoughts on “Other monumental clashes with Tyrone + U21s

  1. In my very first comment to your blog almost a year ago, I went through a list of types of players that you ideally need on a team that would challenge for All-Ireland honours. In summary, I suggested that the back 6 would include a strong full back, a No 6 who could dominate his area, 2 attacking backs and 2 tight man markers. At centre field, the formula was an enforcer and a ball winner. I stayed away from the forwards at the time but I will come to it later in this piece. After the Galway match last year (the Championship one – not the shadow boxing one), I also suggested that we needed an edge to our game that was missing and I suggested that the saying of “nice guys don’t win” applied to us a bit too much. So now, coming near the start of championship 2008, are we much better? I think we are.
    Last week, I went through the names on the team sheet, commented on each and I don’t intend to do that in this piece. However, we are getting the backs right now. I know that we are still leaking goals but, in all honesty, I would be much more worried if everything was perfect at this stage. We need to peak in the 3rd quarter of the year and it is still only April. Even with the results so far in the league, I believe that we are as good as anything that is around at this point in the year. We just need to remember that everyone else will continue to improve. If we improve at the same rate, we will continue to be close to the top of the pile. I believe that Johnno has his head around the defensive issues and that things will continue to improve there.
    At centre field, we are also in good shape and will get better as the year progresses. But it is in the forwards that I have the most concern. The lads are playing well there but how much more can they improve. I know that Austie is playing out of his skin at present, but can he produce the 25% more that will be needed come July or August? Alan Dillon is gone a bit off the boil, but can he get it back for the Summer? Our half forward line was cleaned out last Sunday by the line that most Galway fans had the least faith in. There certainly is room for improvement there. And while Andy is getting a taste for rattling the net, will he be able to do it in the summer, when the faster ground will not have corner backs slipping as quickly when tries to round them?
    I see no pattern in how he is building the attack. While he has continued to make incremental (and gradually significant) changes in defence, he is playing the same people at Nos 11, 13, 14 & 15 all the time. And he is only switching the two wing half forwards as different individuals are or are not injured. This is a cause for concern. There is no plan B. I think the option that he needs is a strong Centre Half Forward that will run at the defence. This would allow Austie to drift out as he does and create a space in front of goal that can be exploited by running backs. It is exceptionally difficult to defend against this type of game.
    Johnno is doing what a manager who played in the backs does – he has built from the back and that is why I believe that the backs will continue to improve. But I think he probably needs a forwards coach to work with him. However, we have run out of experimenting time in the league – unless he wants to try it against Tyrone.
    However, on the positive side, the attitude of the team is now much better than last year. Nobody is getting pushed around now and they do not give up. This was greatly in evidence in the game last Sunday. Having lost the lead in the second half, they fought the wind, the hail, the snow and (not least of all) Galway, to get back into the game. The “edge” that was missing is now there. It’s not a matter of getting dirty, it’s a case of being able to stand up to another team and take no shit. This was noticed and commented upon by Eugene McGee on Monday last. And those of us old enough will remember McGee’s delight on the night following his success in guiding the Offaly team that stopped Kerry’s 5 in a row run in 1982. So he should know what he is talking about.
    And finally for this time, the Under 21 Connaught 3 in a row win tonight is a very positive development. We haven’t been blessed with Connaught minor titles of late, but we have been up against good teams from Galway and Roscommon. This bodes well for the future, as our lads are clearly developing quicker than their neighbours into the U21 grade, but will have a lot of competition for Connaught titles in the next few years. With careful nurturing, I really believe the good times are not far away.

    Keep the Faith!

  2. I think we’re getting there alright, Four Goal, but the most frustrating thing now is that, after Sunday, we won’t see sight nor light of them (apart from meaningless challenge matches) until they take the field against Sligo on 22nd June. We both said our piece here around this time last year about the championship structure so I guess there’s nothing to be gained from another rant now …

    The team announced tonight is interesting, with Keith moving back into the corner in a switch with Tom Cunniffe. I think we’re okay now in the half-backs, what with Chris Barrett, Pat Kelly and Trevor in reserve, so there was no real option but to move Keith back to the corner. Hopefully, we’ll see fewer goals conceded on Sunday (perhaps even none, for the first time since the league final this time last year).

    Midfield is getting there, alright, with Tom Parsons getting better with every game, as is Ronan. I think we’ll be okay there come Summer.

    I agree with what you say about the forwards. Part of me still hopes that Super Mac is okay to take his place, preferably on the forty, but maybe that just delusional thinking on my part. I’m not convinced about Dillon either and the other half-forwards berths are still up for grabs too. interesting to see Aidan Campbell back in the team for Sunday – hopefully, he’ll grab this chances with both hands.

    It was good to see the lads standing up to Galway (and the weather!) the last day and I don’t have any fears about getting kicked out the gate this Summer like we were last May. We’re also, despite our more lowly league position, playing better football than last year and the draw in Connacht has been kinder to us too.

    We’d always have to fancy our chances in a Connacht final played in Castlebar and another provincial title has to be our baseline goal for this year. If we manage that, then we’ll see what happens from there.

    All the best


  3. Very interesting, rational and fair the discussion between your self and FourGoal. I think we are better this year but I am afraid that I am in the minority when I state that McGarrity is not up to the mark. I would have perservered with O Shea along with Parsons in the centre. In a years time we would reap the benefits, McGarrity is not a leader in the Dara O Shea mould nor is he as good as what Galway have either, O Shea has the bulk, he needs games. By the way does anyone know what happened to MacDonald and Ger Brady after their “invite” to training a few weeks ago. Also what ever happened to the other Ger Brady from Claremorris, I see he kicks massive scores for them in club matches. Strange, a few guys get years to tie down a spot with mixed results and the likes of Austin and Ger Brady are always under pressure to produce the goods. I mean , to me Dillon is a very average footballer who never strings two good matches together but he is a fixture. Still I suppose thats why I am typing this looking out the window in Meath, doctors differ and patients die. Hers hoping for a clean sheet on Sunday, we need it. Its not going to magicaly come right against Sligo or whoever we meet in the championship. Well done to the u21s, Ros were favourites so a win is a good win.

  4. I’m not sure I’d agree with your assessment of Ronan. He had an immediate impact when he came on against Laois – even though he was patently unfit – and his influence has grown match by match since, as his fitness level has improved. He stood up very well to Cullinane th last day and was well able for all the handbags stuff that Cullinane likes to get involved in. With Bergin now out for the Connacht championship, I’d say a midfield of Ronan and Tom Parsons, with Seamus O’Shea and Barry Moran in reserve (or the half-forwards?), will have the measure of Cullinane and Coleman.

    I haven’t a clue what the crack is with Super Mac. Personally, I’d still have him back if he’s fit and able. And on the forty as well.

    Dillon is certainly a conundrum. When he’s on form, he can be very good – which was why he won an All-Star in 2006 – but when he’s off form, he can be utterly ineffective. You’re right that he’s a fixture in the team come what may so I guess we can only hope that the on-form version turns up more often than the off-form one!

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