Tyrone ready to set some records straight in the Super 8s
Forward Mattie Donnelly says team is bringing back things they can work on each week
Tyrone’s Mattie Donnelly: “Nearly every man on that panel has proved themselves to be the best in Ireland at some grade, be it Sigerson, minor or U-21 football.” Photograph: Getty Images
With a quarter-final record bettered by none other than Kerry and Dublin, Tyrone have good reason to feel at home in Croke Park this Saturday. In getting there they’ve also given themselves the chance to set a few records straight.
Their Super 8s draw too looks relatively kind – depending on how things work out. After Roscommon in Croke Park, they host Dublin in Omagh next Saturday, before finishing up with the short trip up the road to face Donegal in Ballybofey.
All a long way since losing to Monaghan in the Ulster quarter-final, then very nearly losing to Meath in their first round qualifier: but after Kerry, who’ve made all 18 quarter-finals since introduced in 2001, and Dublin, who’ve made all but one, Tyrone are there for the 14th time and that’s good enough for now.
“It’s history in the making, the first year of this concept and we were so eager not to be watching on with other teams,” said Tyrone forward Mattie Donnelly, one of 10 different scorers in the ultimately facile win over Cork last Saturday evening. “We’re there now, there’s a buzz about it built up at this stage as well, so looking forward to it.”
Tyrone are also well familiar with the qualifier route, winning 28 games and losing only four since the so-called back door route was introduced in 2001. After beating Meath, Carlow, Cavan and the Cork, Donnelly also feels the panel have come closer together.
Growing every week
“It’s been massive. You see operators like Collie [Cavanagh] and Petey [Harte] after the first day getting sent off and missing the next day, Tiernan McCann and them boys, then you’ve a number of boys who are featuring prominently coming on from the subs’ bench as well.
“You see them boys growing every week, and you’re able to probably get over each round without performing to your absolute optimum, but you’re bringing back things you can work on each week and that’s massive.
“Nearly every man on that panel has proved themselves to be the best in Ireland at some grade, be it Sigerson, minor or U-21 football; we’ve done that before so we’ve a belief there definitely. But the belief is in eight other changing rooms around the country now, so it’s just about who performs on the day.
“We were firmly planning on going through the front door through the Ulster championship, but once we were knocked out of that our number one goal was to get to the last eight, and we’re there now and fair play to us for getting there.”
Hosting Dublin on Saturday week gives Tyrone the chance to set the record straight on last year when Dublin ran rings around them in Croke Park in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Before that, though Roscommon, who Tyrone have beaten in all three of the previous championship meetings, all of which were All-Ireland qualifiers (2013, 2012, and 2011). Manager Mickey Harte isn’t completely fussed about their route either.
“I do feel when you’re on the qualifier run you do find out things about your team that you wouldn’t find out in the white heat of the Ulster championship,” he said. “The fact it isn’t knock-out takes a wee bit of pressure off. We’ve had enough of them for now, but you’d certainly want a result.”
Not that Harte is underestimating Roscommon even if they are the only Super 8s team coming in off Division Two of the league (they were promoted).
“It’s very difficult to rank anyone after Dublin,” said Harte. “Dublin are number one, but you can rank the other teams in a variety of ways, and from what I saw of Roscommon’s performance [against Armagh] it was very impressive. They’ve had very good underage teams, ran Galway very close in the Connacht final, so they are a very good team.”
No mention yet of Donegal, who took Tyrone’s Ulster football crown this season: that’s a whole other record to set straight.
* Roscommon manager Kevin McStay has made two changes to his team; Fintan Cregg and Cathal Compton, who both came on as replacements against Armagh, come in at centre back and full forward, indirect swaps for Peter Domican and Seanie McDermott
Roscommon (SF v Tyrone): Colm Lavin; David Murray, John McManus, Niall McInerney; Niall Daly, Fintan Cregg, Conor Devaney; Tadgh O’Rourke, Enda Smith; Ciarain Murtagh, Niall Kilroy, Cathal Cregg; Diarmuid Murtagh, Cathal Compton, Donie Smith.