Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Comment: Tyrone are still the team to beat

Tyrone's captain Brian Dooher lifts aloft the Anglo Celt Cup after his side beat Antrim in the Ulster Final

Kerry are now joint favourites to lift the Sam Maguire after that stunning victory over Dublin.

But I doubt if it will be causing Mickey Harte to lose too much sleep.

The reality is that Cork, who face Tyrone in the All Ireland semi-final on Sunday fortnight, and Kerry never broke sweat in winning their quarter-final matches.

In terms of preparing them for bigger days to come in Croke Park those games against Donegal and Dublin count for absolutely nothing.

Neither game ever went remotely close to being a contest. It’s more a case of the slaughter of the innocents, Donegal and Dublin caving in at the first hint of pressure.

The contrast with Tyrone couldn’t be greater — they again lived up to Kieran McGeeney’s billing as the best team in the last 30 years.

Harte’s men were never seriously troubled in a comfortable Ulster championship campaign.

But Kildare changed all that in the white heat of an All Ireland quarter-final.

When the Lily Whites led by four points at half time there was a buzz around the stadium that suggested a major shock.

But Harte lived up to his reputation as a very astute manager with a spirited and forceful half time team talk.

A side that has its sights set on a fourth Sam Magurie hit the ground running on the re-start, hitting six points without reply.

Kildare did come back to draw level, but once the irrepressible Stephen O’Neill and Justin McMahon landed late points there was only going to be one winner in this one.

Like true champions Harte’s men responded at the first sign of danger.

Even when they were swimming against the tide in the opening 35 minutes there was no sign of panic.

Tyrone players again displayed all the qualities that have made them the most feared side in the country.

Their composure and confidence on the ball sets them apart from their rivals.

They play what can best be described as total football, backs comfortable going forward, forwards ready and able to defend whenever the occasion demands it.

Centre half back Conor Gormley and half back Davy Harte managed to get forward for scores in the first half, Gormley running from his own 21 to the opposing 21 to set up a crucial second half point.

If that wasn’t enough for one day full back Justin McMahon then stormed up field to land the best score of the afternoon from 40 metres.

Kerry may have grabbed the headlines on Monday with that drubbing of a desperate Dublin outfit.

But there won’t be as much as a murmur of dissent coming out of Tyrone.

For now at least the focus and the inevitable pressure falls on the Kingdom allowing Tyrone to get on with the job in hand.

First up it’s Cork on Sunday fortnight and that’s Mickey Harte’s only concern.

From now until August 23 his total focus will be on Conor Counihan’s Cork.

The 2008 All Ireland champions are in rude health and still on course for All Ireland number four.

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