Tyrone’s cuteness to get them over the line against Monaghan
After wins over Meath and Kildare, Harte's side is looking more dangerous with very game
Tyrone will have to find someone to share the burden with Seán Cavanagh if they are to succeed. Photograph: Inpho
Destiny couldn’t keep these two apart. Having fought so brilliantly to beat Donegal and claim their first Ulster title since 1988, Monaghan’s reward was to draw Tyrone, the team they beat in that final 25 year ago, and have not beaten since.
And not that either of these two are daring to look past this one, but there is the potential All-Ireland semi-final showdown with Donegal (should they get past Mayo). That will be by invitation only.
There is, in another words, a lot at stake here, but possibly more so for Tyrone, who always expected to be at this stage of the competition anyway. And having beaten Meath and Kildare in their last two games they are certainly back in familiar territory, and looking more dangerous with every game.
But they certainly had their problems against Meath, over-reliant on Seán Cavanagh, with even manager Mickey Harte agreeing that he played like “Brian Dooher and Peter Canavan and Brian McGuigan all rolled into one”. That’s quite the compliment, but Harte knows he’ll need to get a better return from the likes of Stephen O’Neill and Colm Cavanagh, nor can he rely on their cuteness for closing out games at the death like they did again last Saturday.
What Tyrone do have is that rhythm and familiarity now with Croke Park, and look slightly better primed for this too, Dermot Carlin starting at corner back for the injured Ryan McKenna, having made such a good impression there last weekend.
Whatever about Monaghan’s relative inexperience of Croke Park in comparison (they last played championship here in 2008), the more pertinent question is how easy it will be to repeat the intensity of their Ulster final performance, for a number of reasons.
That was a performance driven by hunger and desire more than anything else, and those two ingredients aren’t readily available every time a team goes out – but the well deserved celebrations that followed that Ulster title win can’t have been easily set aside.
No one is doubting the ability of their big-time players: Kieran Hughes made Eamonn McGee look very ordinary in the Ulster final; Drew Wylie comfortably handled Colm McFadden, and Dessie Mone was simply electric all the over the field. Substitutes Tommy Freeman and Christopher McGuinness underlined their depth. But it has to be remembered as well that Donegal at times played inexplicably poor and looked totally uninspired, and it’s hard to see Tyrone falling into any such temporary slumps.
Malachy O’Rourke is also able to start centre forward Stephen Gollogly, despite the eye injury he sustained in that now infamous clash with Mark McHugh: now, whether that carry-on creeps into this game or not doesn’t really bear thinking about, or else things could turn very ugly.
Monaghan won’t want to allow it turn into one of those tight, messy games, and O’Rourke knows enough about Tyrone football to realise that. They’ll have to run at Tyrone and hit them when it hurts, because if it does come down to one those intense finishes, then just like Meath discovered, there can only be one winner.
Referee: C Reilly (Meath)