Tyrone and Kerry to keep a lid on rivalry
IT is one of the most passionate rivalries in gaelic football but this week-end further plans will be put in place to ensure that tensions are eased when Tyrone and Kerry renew acquaintance next Sunday.
Already Club Tyrone officials have been making it clear that they will accord a warm welcome to Kingdom fans who will be travelling to Healy Park, Omagh for a game that will determine the outcome of their side's survival mission in Division One – and with good reason, they feel.
Mark Conway, who has been behind several initiatives aimed at improving Tyrone's standing over the years and by extension the overall image of the GAA in Ulster, insists that the Red Hands will merely be striving to repay generous hospitality they enjoyed at Killarney last year when Kerry won the All Ireland qualifying match between the counties.
"On that occasion Tyrone fans were made very welcome and indeed some of the Kerry supporters waited around for about an hour to see our team off.
"They had won the game deservedly but there was no gloating, just a sincere acceptance of the outcome and now we want to show that we can repay that kind of generosity," says Conway.
In a week in which recently-retired Tyrone star Brian McGuigan rubbished the theory that manager Mickey Harte has ever attempted to orchestrate cynical fouling – something that Harte himself has robustly rebutted – efforts are being made to ensure that the match proves to be a fitting spectacle from every posbbile perspective.
"We have massive media interest and we are making special plans to try and accommodate all those journalists who want to attend as best we can," reports Tyrone PRO Eunan Lindsay.
Kerry will return on Tuesday from a five-day trip to the continent where they engaged in warm weather training and where bonding sessions were conducted by their manager Eamon Fitzmaurice. But while goodwill will be in evidence at Healy Park, the Kerry players are in no doubt about what they will face.
"It'll be like a championship game, quite hostile. But we're looking forward to it," says forward Donnacha Walsh.
And Tyrone boss Mickey Harte's clinical response certainly sets the tone for a crunch clash that could see the Kingdom drop into Division Two.
"We won't be thinking about Kerry, we will only be thinking about what our recent win over Dublin has done for us.
"We want to stay with a bit of momentum – that's what our aim will be," declares the O'Neill county boss.