Tyrone eye a home bonus
Published 13/02/2009 | 00:00
There is one certainty that applies to Sunday’s renewal of rivalry between Tyrone and Kerry in Omagh - and that is that no special arrangements will have to be put in place to accommodate visiting fans.
Kingdom supporters - and I use that term advisedly - traditionally keep their money in their pockets for what they regard as their pilgrimages to Croke Park for All Ireland semi-finals and finals, in addition to paying lip service to Munster finals.
In contrast, Tyrone fans not only actively worship their side for 52 weeks of the year but have contributed significantly to the economy in general and the Dublin economy in particular over the course of recent years.
Yet the anticipated dearth of green and gold colours in the stand and on the terraces at Healy Park on Sunday will not render the Red Hands’ task against their greatest rivals any more straightforward.
Manager Mickey Harte is particularly quick to acknowledge this.
“While I’m sure there won’t be too many travelling up from Kerry, for the game, their players will be very focussed,” insists Harte.
“Donegal found them a hot handful in the opening game of the league and we know that they will be gunning for nothing less than a win against us.”
Conor Gormley, Brian Dooher and Brian McGuigan may still be out of the Tyrone frame but Harte still finds himself with rich options for a game that could provide a possible pointer to the destination of the league title.
Such was the scintillating form of Stephen O’Neill, Sean Cavanagh (pictured), Colm McCullagh and Owen Mulligan in that epic win over Dublin in that stunning floodlit spectacular on Saturday week last, that Tyrone have been installed as favourites to extend their recent dominance over the Kingdom.
But the warning shots that players such as ambitious newcomers Tommy Walsh, David Moran, Darren O’Sullivan and Aidan O’Shea have fired in relation to their desire to become established in this Kerry side have not gone unnoticed in Tyrone.
The quartet flourished against Donegal, with Moran majestic in midfield, O’Sullivan revelling in his role as captain and O’Shea proving he is a chip off the old block.
He is, after all, a son of former Kingdom legend Jack O’Shea.
Jack O’Connor has, of course, taken over from Pat O’Shea as Kerry boss and his track record against Tyrone is dismal - so much so, in fact, that even a win on Sunday will not placate him.
O’Connor’s avowed intention is to humble Tyrone on the All Ireland Championship stage and in this context, Sunday will be viewed as a preliminary sparring contest.
Harte, intent on seeing Tyrone reach an even higher peak, is geared for a battle royal - again.
"Kerry are an impressive outfit, they are always there or thereabouts in every competition.
"It will be a real battle and one we are really looking forward to,” says the Red Hands boss.
“This game should catch the imagination of others in Ulster as well who want to come and see it, not just Tyrone supporters.”
He’s certainly right there.
With most Ulster counties in action tomorrow night, chances are that many followers will now have the chance to get behind their own side before heading for Omagh on Sunday.
There won’t be too many spare spaces, there, though - and it will not be because of an invasion by Kerry folk!