Sligo can give a good account of themselves against Tyrone
Connacht final beating must got over but Mickey Harte’s side should have too much
Tyrone’s Peter Harte scores from the penalty spot against Meath in Round 2B of the All-reland SFC last month. Photograph: Andrew Paton/Inpho.
While it isn’t in the least bit odd that Tyrone are still standing now that the Croke Park end of the summer has come around, it is slightly curious that they’ve shown such scant form in getting here. When they lost by a kick of the ball to Donegal back in May, the broad consensus was that they’d given a good enough account of themselves to survive the qualifiers. Little did anyone suspect that their trip to Ballybofey would be the best they’d play all summer.
They took an age to find their feet against Limerick and trailed at home to Meath at half-time. Though the Tipperary game was straight-forward in the end, it was in the balance until the home side bit off more than it could chew with a pre-half-time schemozzle. If there were many Tyrone people in Semple that Saturday confident about how the second half would go, they were keeping it to themselves.
There’s an undeniable feeling abroad now, however, that the skies have cleared somewhat for Mickey Harte’s side. Sligo this weekend, possibly Monaghan next - they’ll happily take that as a route to an All-Ireland semi-final.
Peter Harte has been their stand-out performer, raiding from around the middle, unobtrusively excellent in his contributions. With him, Mattie Donnelly and the two Cavanaghs in the middle third of the pitch, Tyrone boast a lot of correct option-taking. In the qualifiers, all you need to add is a couple of scorers and it’s a package that will carry you a fair distance.
It will likely carry them past Sligo, although. In a way, the extent of the beating in the Connacht final stopped mattering after the first 10 minutes. It ended up being 26 points but after a while that game became more about Mayo boosting their own mojo than Sligo making any shape at finding theirs.
For what it’s worth, the other two teams who found themselves on the wrong end of savage beatings in this summer’s chanmpionship - Longford and Kildare - both went out and won their next game. Indeed, Longford won their next two and Kildare (at least) their next three. Okay, the opposition might not have been hectic but the point is the after-effects of a 20-pointer need not be debilitating.
Even at Sligo’s best though, it’s hard to see how they’d enjoy a game like this. Tyrone haven’t conceded a goal in the qualifiers since 2013, a stretch going back five matches. They might not be going just as well as the second half against Tipp suggests but they’re masters at shutting down a game like this.
All-Ireland SFC Qualifier Round 4B, Croke Park, 4.0 (Live: Sky Sports)
Last meeting: All-Ireland SFC Qualifier R4, July 21st 2002, Croke Park - Sligo 1-14 Tyrone 0-12
Betting: Tyrone 1/14, Sligo 10/1, Draw 25/1
Just the ticket: Adults €5; Students & Seniors €15 (Cusack & Davin only); U16 €5
TYRONE: 1 Niall Morgan; 2 Aidan McCrory, 3 Ronan McNamee, 4 Rory Brennan; 5 Ronan McNabb, 6 Joe McMahon, 7 Peter Harte; 8 Colm Cavanagh, 9 Mattie Donnelly; 10 Tiernan McCann, 11 Mark Bradley, 12 Conor Meyler; 13 Darren McCurry, 14 Seán Cavanagh, 15 Connor McAliskey.
SLIGO (probable): 1 Aidan Devaney; 2 Ross Donavan, 3 Kevin McDonnell, 4 Daniel Maye; 5 Keelan Cawley, 6 Brendan Egan, 7 Eoin Flanagan; 8 Cian Breheny, 9 Niall Murphy; 10 Brian Curran, 11 Mark Breheny, 12 Neil Ewing; 13 David Kelly, 14 Pat Hughes, 15 Adrian Marren.
Referee: Rory Hickey (Clare)