Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Hughes' form strengthens Tyrone’s hand

Kevin Hughes laid down an impressive marker for a place in Tyrone's starting line-up for the All Ireland League final with an all-action display from the bench in the victory over Wexford

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte may find himself spoiled for choice when it comes to naming his team to meet Kerry in the All Ireland football final on September 21.

It was just prior to their quarter-final meeting with Dublin that the Red Hands finally came up to something approaching full-strength following a spate of injuries which had made serious inroads into Harte’s resources up until then.

Now the Red Hands boss could discover that interesting options are available to him for what will be a titanic showdown with Kerry who are bidding to land their third All Ireland title on the trot.

Kevin Hughes, Owen Mulligan and Colm Cavanagh were all sprung from the bench in the second-half of Sunday’s 0-23 to 1-14 win over gallant Wexford and of this trio, Hughes would appear to have a formidable chance of enjoying substantial game time against the Kingdom – and perhaps even a starting place.

It was in the 50th minute on Sunday that the sturdy Kileeshill clubman made his entrance and he certainly impressed for the remainder fo the match, helping to shore up the midfield and immersing himself in a flurry of attacks, the outcome of some of which proved crucial to Tyrone’s victory.

An undeniable thirst for action, a marked combative edge and, perhaps most importantly, the invaluable experience he has acquired of actually playing against Kerry will certainly bolster his chances of figuring strongly in Harte’s thinking for the final.

When Tyrone beat Kerry in the 2005 All Ireland final, Hughes was a central figure in their triumph, his in-your-face stance clearly helping to unsettle a Kerry side who were knocked out of their stride by Tyrone’s dynamic approach and obvious relish for the physical exchanges.

It was no coincidence that some of Kerry’s marquee players such as Seamus Moynihan and Dara O Cinneide called time on their playing careers after that game and that several other players in their squad found themselves rather surplus to requirements.

Since then, of course, Kerry, with amendments to their side and a restructured management team, have underlined their own immense pride – even arrogance – and absolute commitment to the cause by roaring back to claim the All Ireland title in 2006 and again last year.

But neither of these deciders, sadly, helped to embellish the reputation of the All Ireland final as one of the very special days in the Irish sporting calendar.

Mayo were the proverbial lambs to the slaughter in 2006 — thus enhancing their frustrating adhesive cinderella’ image — while Cork submitted meekly in a one-sided exercise last year that ensured the All Ireland Championship curtain came down with a whimper rather than a bang.

Somehow, it’s difficult to envisage that this situation will pertain this time round.

Tyrone, now armed with fresh reserves of confidence following a five-match unbeaten run since their Ulster Championship setback against Down and cossetted by massive fanatical support, know that their meeting with the Kingdom will be the ultimate test of their character and credibility.

And with players like Kevin Hughes in particular waiting patiently to be unleashed into the arena, Kerry themselves may not sleep too comfortably in their

beds between now and September 21.

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Brian McIver has been ousted as manager of the Donegal football team.

McIver, who has been in charge for the last three years, came under pressure last week when a number of clubs raised the issue of his appointment for a fourth successive year

McIver stepped down at a County Board meeting last night once it became apparent that he had not got the support of the clubs.

“I sensed that there was a feeling of negativity from a number of clubs,” he said. “Whenever I joined Donegal one thing was certain that I would never overstay my welcome.

“It was entirely up to the clubs. I was quite happy that I had the full backing of all the players. We were making our plans for the following season. If there is a feeling in the county that we are not making progress then I'll hand over the reins.”

McIver quit briefly last season but was persuaded to come back for another year.

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