Revenge in air for Tyrone
Ten years have elapsed since Tyrone last won the Allianz Football League title and players such as Sean Cavanagh, Conor Gormley and Joe McMahon feel this is a famine which must be ended this month.
The Red Hands will face Kildare in Sunday’s semi-final parading a plethora of players who have yet to share in the major league honour level and who instead, like their more experienced colleagues, have bitter memories of last year’s Division Two final defeat by the Lily Whites.
And this is what Cavanagh in particular feels can fire up the Red Hands for Sunday’s renewal of rivalry with Kieran McGeeney’s side.
When the teams met in Newbridge last month Tyrone came out on top but Cavanagh insists that this will have no bearing on Sunday’s contest.
“We lost to Kildare in the divisional final last year and although we got the better of them last month, that was certainly no measure of revenge for us,” says Cavanagh.
“We were beaten by Kerry last weekend and back to back defeats would not be viewed as the best preparation for our forthcoming Ulster Championship tie against Donegal.”
Cavanagh believes Tyrone can lay down a marker for the league crown, not just by overcoming Kildare again but by the manner of their performance.
“We want to try and put last Sunday’s loss behind us and show what we are capable of, now that we are back in Croke Park,” adds Cavanagh.
“The league is approaching a fascinating climax and we certainly want to be in the final.”
Gormley has been regaining his best form after injury and helped to stabilise the defence last week-end when Kerry were threatening to run riot after building up an 11 points lead.
The Carrickmore clubman is anxious to see Tyrone get into their stride early against Kildare, a team for which he has a high regard.
“Kildare have been there or thereabouts for the past few years and will be very keen to land the league title. We will need to be on top of our game if we are to get into the final against Dublin or Mayo,” declares Gormley.
The Red Hands defence was certainly pummelled in the first-half against the Kingdom, until manager Mickey Harte took remedial action and, in the end, his side lost by just a solitary point.
Kildare’s fitness, work ethic and physicality could potentially pose equally big problems for the Red Hands, especially if they manage to win break ball in the middle third of the park.
In Henry McGrillan, Emmet Bolton, Darryl Flynn, Johnny Doyle, Tómas O’Connor and Peter Kelly, Kildare have solid, durable players who are particularly keen to land medals as their careers begin to nose into the veteran stage.
Manager McGeeney, a devotee of quick, direct play has watched the team mix the good, the bad and the ugly this year but their familiarity with Croke Park could stand to them on this occasion.
Joe McMahon will have an important role in the Tyrone side in terms of helping to shore up gaps and launch counter-attacks, while Peter Harte will also be deployed in a similar role as manager Harte seeks to restrict Kildare’s counter-attacking efficiency.
McMahon’s versatility has been a key element of Tyrone’s progress to date this year and, while he accepts that the more experienced corps can set the template for Sunday’s display, he suggests that the hunger being shown by the newer faces could help trigger the team’s entry in the league decider.
“We have young guys in there who are very hungry for medals and that’s a good thing.
“This is helping to keep the rest of us on our toes and if we can get a good team effort going on Sunday we won’t be far away.
Another competitive game in the league final would be ideal championship preparation,” asserts McMahon.
Tyrone: N Morgan; P J Quinn, C Clarke, C McCarron; D Carlin, Matthew Donnelly, C Gormley; C Cavanagh, S Cavanagh; Joe McMahon,P Harte, Mark Donnelly; M Penrose, S O’Neill, D McCurry.