Tyrone have more room for improvement
Despite home advantage Down will need to be at their very best to find a way past their Ulster rivals this time around
Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan takes to the line after receiving a black card in last week’s drawn Ulster senior football Championship preliminary round game against Down at Healy Park. Photograph: Inpho.Omagh, Tyrone 18/5/2014Tyrone vs DownTyrone’s Niall MorganMandatory Credit ©INPHO/Presseye/Russell Pritchard
Both teams would have been disappointed with last week’s outcome. Down manager James McCartan understandably said that he’d have taken a draw at half-time but might have been less inclined to do so when Donal O’Hare was standing over a free to put them three clear going into injury-time.
Down would also have been aware that for the 15-minute window in the second half, when they were dismantling Tyrone’s seven-point lead and constructing a two-point advantage, they played the best football of the afternoon.
Tyrone on the other hand were better for longer but still needed the late intervention of Seán Cavanagh’s frees.
There is no doubt that, although Down didn’t show for 35 minutes, Tyrone are the ones with greater room for improvement. They’ll need to find it, as there’s expected to be a big crowd backing their opponents in Newry this evening.
One of the most obvious aspects of this will be Niall Morgan’s presumed presence for the whole match. After the goalkeeper’s black card in Omagh, Tyrone struggled with restarts and Morgan can restore calm as well as providing the back-up of proven long-range free taking.
Both teams will want to get a more consistent display out of their forwards. In their purple patch, Down looked impressive having made the changes and introduced some pace into the attack.
Although precedent is on Down’s side after their replay win in Newry six years ago, the view here is that Tyrone will respond to the inadequacies of last week’s display and improve to the point at which even if Down also raise their game – which is on the cards – it will still be an away win.