Right, then, time to look in a bit more detail at Sunday’s National Football League Round 5 clash with Tyrone. This one takes place at Healy Park in Omagh, where the man with the whistle will be Cork’s Conor Lane. The game throws in at 3pm on Sunday (really, it does – but don’t forget that the clocks go forward on Saturday night) and it’s being broadcast live on TG4.
We’ve come up against Mickey Harte’s men regularly enough in both League and championship in recent years. The dominant theme here – which doesn’t help our cause for Sunday but is a positive in the wider scheme of things – is that their record against us in the League is very good, while we’ve had the hex on them in the championship.
Our most recent clash was, of course, last year’s nerve-shredding All-Ireland quarter-final. We’d shown indifferent enough form in the championship up ’till then but we really stepped it up against the Ulster champions. They had the chance to snatch a draw or even win it themselves but we held on to win by a point, on a scoreline of 0-13 to 0-12. I was happy enough after that one (audio here).
We didn’t play them in the League last year, as they were operating out of Division Two then. We met them in each of the three previous years in the League, though, every time in Round 2 and on all three occasions the Red Hands came out on top.
In 2015, they beat us by 1-11 to 1-7 at MacHale Park. That was the day that Pat Holmes unguardedly admitted they’d have to look at Tyrone’s blanket defence approach “and see if we’re faced with it again that we deal with it and cope with it better”. The previous February up in Healy Park – the most recent time we played them in Omagh – we went under by two goals, on a 2-15 to 0-15 scoreline, a game in which Adam Gallagher excelled for us. Back at MacHale Park in 2013 they outplayed us all day but it looked like we were going to pull off an undeserved victory before they were awarded a hotly contested last-second penalty, which they converted to win by a point, by 1-12 to1-11.
Six months after that defeat, however, we turned the tables on them in the All-Ireland semi-final. They’d taken out Ulster champions Monaghan in the quarters – the match that was pivotal to the introduction of the black card, in which Seán Cavanagh rugby-tackled Conor McManus to the floor – but, despite losing Cillian O’Connor to injury early on we won handily enough, sealing back-to-back All-Ireland final appearances on a scoreline of 1-16 to 0-13.
Tyrone were back in Division Two in 2011 and 2012 so the most recent meeting between us before 2013 was in 2010. Although that year went from bad to worse for us, we were flying in the spring and went all the way to the League final. We beat Tyrone in a tasty encounter up in Omagh that February (once again a Round 2 encounter) by 1-12 to 1-11 and that was our most recent win in Healy Park.
Tyrone are faring okay this year on their return to the top tier. They got off to a flier in Round 1 with an 0-18 to 1-9 win over Roscommon and then were very unlucky only to draw with Dublin a week later. They led by five points midway through the second half in that one but a very dodgy red card and a few even dodgier frees awarded against them by Joe McQuillan helped Dublin to snatch an undeserved 1-7 to 0-10 draw and keep their unbeaten run going.
An 0-14 to 0-10 Round 4 win over Monaghan, followed by an 0-19 to 1-9 win over Cavan in their re-fixed Round 3 tie, sent them to the top of the table heading into last weekend. An 0-12 to 0-6 loss to Donegal in a bruising encounter at Ballybofey knocked them off their perch, however, and so they head into Sunday’s match in third place, though they’re still level with Dublin, Donegal and Monaghan on seven points.
What’s notable about Tyrone in this campaign is how well they’ve done at home. They’ve won all three matches they’ve played at Healy Park – including against Monaghan and Cavan, who both came away from MacHale Park with wins – and have only one reverse to date this spring, that match against Donegal last weekend. Unlike ourselves, they’ve really made the most of home advantage, making Sunday’s trip all the more daunting from our point of view.
Tyrone are clearly giving plenty of thought to the challenge we’re likely to pose on Sunday. Speaking to the Strabane Chronicle (here), Tyrone defender Ronan McNamee says “we’re like a wounded animal at the minute” and reckons it could be “a fiery enough encounter” with both sides keen to bag the two points on offer.
Mickey Harte, meanwhile, pays us a rather back-handed compliment in today’s Irish Independent (here) where he says we play the game in an off-the-cuff kind of way, an approach which he reckons gives us “a degree of unpredictability”. Compared to the often robotic approach his teams tend to adopt, I can see what he means and you can easily imagine Mickey, his brow all furrowed, poring over the tapes trying to figure out what the hell we’re up to. Given how we’re doing this spring, though, I’d say many on our side of the fence would be happy enough to see us play with a more defined structure on Sunday.
We’ll no doubt be naming our team tomorrow night. [Insert moan here about non-naming of subs and changes to published team made on the day]. The Mayo News reported this week (here) that Aidan and Seamus O’Shea, who both lined out for Breaffy at the weekend, are likely to be available for selection for Sunday, though whether or not either will be picked to start is another question.
In more negative news, that piece states that Diarmuid O’Connor has hamstring trouble again and so it seems likely that that he’ll play no further part in this League campaign. Jason Doherty, another man with hamstring trouble, is, however, on the mend and he hasn’t yet been ruled out for this weekend.
So, there you have it. Tyrone fare best against us in the League, play great at home and are wary of us with our devil-may-care approach to life. No wonder they’re 4/6 favourites with the bookies (though the handicap is just a single point). What do you reckon: have we chance in this one at all at all?
How will we do against Tyrone?
- Lose (53%, 206 Votes)
- Win (34%, 132 Votes)
- Draw (13%, 51 Votes)
Total Voters: 389