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Under-21 stars will give Red Hands edge over Monaghan

By Peter Canavan

Published 08/08/2015

Influential: Tyrone's Mark Bradley
Influential: Tyrone's Mark Bradley

The bookmakers clearly do not agree with me, but I believe Tyrone will beat Monaghan today.

Although they had a slow start to their qualifier campaign, they have steadily improved with more games, with the Under-21 players making a massive impact.

They have brought a freshness to the whole panel, adding to the mobility and the pace of the team.

With the likes of Mark Bradley, Conor Meyler and Rory Brennan now starting, with others such as Cathal McShane being viable options off the bench, the more big games they play like this, the better they will become.

They are still a bit off Kerry and Dublin at this stage, but while progress has been - and is going to be - gradual, they should certainly see themselves as being in the top five.

I have been on record as acknowledging the impact Peter Donnelly has made regarding the improvements in strength and conditioning. Today, we will be afforded another chance to see the extent of this as Monaghan like to play it on the edge.

Monaghan, like a number of teams in Ulster, have believed that they can bully Tyrone in the middle sector over the last few seasons.

If the Red Hands can withstand this element of the game, then they need to move the ball at pace. They are capable of causing Monaghan problems.

The forward line are beginning to play as a proper unit and not as individuals.

The key men up front for both sides, Sean Cavanagh and Conor McManus, are vital to the respective gameplans. They are both leaders and play to a very high standard.

Inevitably, they will be double-teamed. They will still have an important part to play, but I believe that Tyrone, without Cavanagh at 100%, will have the stronger supporting cast. They are capable of getting scores from a wider source than the Farney.

The disadvantage Monaghan had at the same stage two years ago was that they had won their first Ulster title in a couple of decades and there were serious celebrations.

Now they have taken it very much in their stride. They are a very focused team and they have had time to line Tyrone up. That's what makes this game so intriguing.

There is a serious prize at stake, and I feel it will come down to the closing minutes. Referee Marty Duffy could have a big part to play.

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