It’s Thursday, with that day of rain now thankfully behind us, and the time is now ticking down rapidly ahead of our NFL Round 6 match against Tyrone at MacHale Park. The match throws in at 2pm on Sunday and Maurice Deegan is the ref for it.
We’ve played Tyrone regularly enough in recent years. We’ve pretty much got the Indian sign on them in the championship but results tend to go both ways in League games between us.
We beat them by a point up in Omagh last year, a win that went a long way towards guaranteeing us Division One football this year. They were in Division Two the year before that but on their last visit to MacHale Park, in February 2015, they completely flummoxed us and came away with a four-point win.
They beat us the previous time we met in Castlebar too, back in 2013, and, somewhat to my amazement, as I look through the results archive I can see that our most recent win against them at MacHale Park came way back in October 1992. Lord above, the likes Dermot Flanagan, TJ Kilgallon, Tony Finnerty and John Finn were still plying their trade for us then. On that basis alone we’re definitely well overdue a win against them at Sunday’s venue.
Their form line since the start of last year has been up and down. In both the NFL and the championship they started strongly, losing their way in the former (though having already done enough to stay up) and then, after a blistering run to the last four, crashing and burning in rather spectacular fashion in the latter.
In last year’s League they won three out of their first four matches – beating Roscommon by six in Omagh, drawing with Dublin at Croke Park and winning two on the trot back at Healy Park, over Cavan (by seven points) and Monaghan (by four) – and then went on to lose their last three games.
Donegal beat them by six points in Ballybofey and then, as already noted, we nicked a one-point win in Omagh before Kerry thumped them by seven points in Killarney in the final round. This meant that Mickey Harte’s team finished sixth in the Division One table.
They soon put those losses behind them, however, in the Ulster championship. The race for the Anglo-Celt Cup has a reputation as a real dogfight but Tyrone sealed back-to-back Ulster titles last summer with almost Dublin-style ease, beating the lard out of everyone that crossed their path.
First up were Derry, dispatched by 0-22 to 0-11 in the quarters. Next it was Donegal, put to the sword on a scoreline of 1-21 to 1-12 in the semi-final. Surprise packets Down were no match for the Red Hand in the final either, Tyrone winning that one by 2-17 to 0-15.
Now being spoken of as serious contenders for the All-Ireland and the team most likely to put it up to Dublin, Tyrone thumped Armagh in the All-Ireland quarter-final by 3-17 to 0-8. The fact that they’d only come up against Ulster opposition all summer before facing Dublin didn’t appear to get factored into the pre-match analysis last August. In hindsight it should have been.
You know, of course, what happened next. Dublin beat the living crap out of them, Mickey Harte’s charges were left chasing shadows all afternoon, with the Dubs barely breaking sweat before coming out on top in one of the most one-sided All-Ireland semi-finals in recent years. Dublin won by 2-17 to 0-11 at the finish.
So 2017 ended in defeat for Tyrone and 2018 began the same way. This time it was at the hands of a Galway side who this year have decided to emulate the Red Hand’s puke football playbook. Galway won that testy Round 1 encounter at Tuam Stadium by 1-9 to 0-8.
A week later up in Omagh Tyrone put in an improved showing against Dublin but still went under to the now three-in-a-row All-Ireland champions on a scoreline of 2-13 to 1-11. In Round 3, however, they finally got off the mark, beating Division One whipping boys Kildare by a single point, 1-16 to 0-18, in Newbridge.
The following weekend it was Tyrone’s turn to taste defeat by the minimum margin. Monaghan edged them out by 0-15 to 0-14 at Castleblaney to push their Ulster rivals into a battle to avoid relegation.
That made last weekend’s Round 5 game against Donegal a bit of a crunch one. Another defeat there and they’d really have been in the soup but, in a much improved showing at Healy Park, they got the better of Donegal by 2-13 to 1-10.
This means that ourselves and Tyrone go into Sunday’s fixture level on four points each, with Tyrone enjoying a superior scoring difference over us by virtue of a single point. Like us, they go into Sunday’s match having to date won two and lost three games in this year’s League campaign.
Despite the fact that we haven’t beaten them at MacHale Park in a generation, the bookies fancy us to get the win on Sunday that will all but guarantee top tier status for us for another year. Paddy Power have us priced at 8/11 for the win, with Tyrone on offer at 11/8.
Let’s finish, as usual, with a poll to see what the mood is heading into this one: how do you reckon it’ll go when the blanket is unfurled at MacHale Park on Sunday?
How will we do against Tyrone?
- Win (79%, 296 Votes)
- Lose (12%, 45 Votes)
- Draw (9%, 35 Votes)
Total Voters: 376