Tyrone still look a bit too strong for Meath

Mickey Harte’s side likely to protect the ball and shut down Joe Sheridan in his first start all year

Joe Sheridan is a big-game player and has the potential to trouble Tyrone at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Joe Sheridan is a big-game player and has the potential to trouble Tyrone at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Meath have faced Tyrone twice in their history and not only have they beaten them twice, they’ve done so as underdogs each time. For good measure, it’s worth pointing out that both of those Tyrone teams were already well-established.

Cathal McCarron and Conor Clarke have had outstanding games for Tyrone but they haven’t locked down that full-back line in what you’d call a dependable fashion yet, as the two goals conceded against Donegal showed.

And though Conor Gormley has been having one of his best seasons there’s still a callow enough look about the rest of Mickey Harte’s defence. Ciaran McGinley comes back in after missing last week’s win over Kildare to go to a family wedding in Italy and Ryan McKenna moves from wing-back to corner-back as a result. McGinley’s natural pace will be an asset against Eamonn Wallace, who gave Dublin’s Jonny Cooper such a roasting.

The selection of Joe Sheridan is interesting in that he doesn’t look the obvious horse for this particular course.

Clarke is a young full-back but the last thing he’ll worry about is being given the job of mark a big old-fashioned full-forward. Don’t be surprised if Stephen Bray spends some time on the edge of the square instead.

Still, there is a definite logic behind starting Sheridan. There is plainly more chance of seeing the best of him when he has time to settle into a game rather than being introduced off the bench, albeit to a roof-lifting roar.

Thrown in with 20 minutes to go against Dublin, he had that one sublime moment where he beat two Dublin defenders in the act of picking up the ball on the 20-metre line.

But despite two Meath players standing free inside him, he opted to blaze for goal himself. It’s the natural result of an old stager feeling he has to prove himself with limited possession.

In the end though, Tyrone look to have too many smarts about them. Joe McMahon will sweep in front of Clarke and will ensure Packie McConnell can vary his kick-outs.. The two Donnellys and Martin Penrose will run all day in the half-forward line and the suspicion remains that Stephen O’Neill and Darren McCurry carry more of a goal threat than Meath do.

Could be the difference.