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Harte's well-drilled Tyrone can mirror Donegal's 2012 All-Ireland triumph

By Declan Bogue

Published 25/05/2016

Licence to thrill: Tyrone’s system lets Peter Harte get forward when the ball is won
Licence to thrill: Tyrone’s system lets Peter Harte get forward when the ball is won

The most alarming thing about Tyrone's Ulster Championship quarter-final win over Derry is the striking resemblance it bore to Donegal's victory over the same opposition at the same stage of the competition in Ballybofey in 2012.

Back then, the Jim McGuinness experiment was in its infancy and when they met Tyrone in the semi-final, it took an outstretched big toe by goalkeeper Paul Durcan to push a Martin Penrose shot onto the post to make it to the provincial final.

It was clear from that game that Mickey Harte was willing to set up the Red Hands to play in the Donegal way, but they didn't go full-out with it. It must have seemed that the gameplan was an innovation of its time, but soon doomed to rejection.

Four years down the line, it might actually be that Harte has moulded his players and team to be a carbon copy of that All-Ireland winning team. The difference now is that Tyrone have a younger age profile than Donegal had even then.

After the 2012 win in Ballybofey, one Derry player talked about Donegal's astonishing level of communication, even labelling an outfield player 'Paul', even though the only Paul on the panel was their goalkeeper. They had their signals and their codes in place.

By contrast, Oak Leaf manager John Brennan could not understand how his players did not have the same levels of cohesion, especially after they had been away for a weekend training camp. How innocent that remark appears now.

Last Sunday, Tyrone's Colm Cavanagh stood sentry in front of his full-back line. Just ahead of him, midfielder Matthew Donnelly played as an auxiliary centre-back, close to where Derry might attempt to attack through the centre.

Tiernan McCann, Cathal McCarron, Ronan McNamee and Aidan McCrory were not on man-marking jobs, but on a zonal system. Any one of them were granted licence to get forward. This meant that when the ball was turned over, Tyrone had their most comfortable men in Peter Harte, the Donnellys and spare man Cavanagh sprinting upfield.

The combination of power, finesse and intelligence is a formidable one. It will take some thinking to stop them in this form.

Belfast Telegraph

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