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Tyrone believe they can shatter Dublin's dominance

By John Campbell

The theory that an extension of Dublin's supremacy in the Allianz Football League is a foregone conclusion has been diluted to some extent now that three Ulster sides share top spot with them in Division One.

The decision to dispense with semi-finals means that the top two teams go straight through to the decider and the stage is now set for a fascinating climax to the competition.

Tyrone, Donegal and Monaghan are all bracketed alongside Jim Gavin's side on seven points as the spotlight begins to focus strongly on the remaining two rounds of fixtures.

On Sunday, Tyrone will face Mayo at home before taking on Kerry away on Sunday week while Donegal will host Monaghan this weekend then go to Mayo for their last scheduled game on the following Sunday.

Monaghan, meanwhile, will confront Dublin on Sunday week after their joust with Rory Gallagher's side and their itinerary over the last lap of the competition could be said to be the most demanding.

The Red Hands, who have been viewed as the most viable challengers to Dublin's total dominance of the competition spanning the past few years, have no intention of relenting in their bid to chase the trophy despite the increased emphasis on the possible destination of the Ulster Championship title following their loss to Donegal last Saturday.

Manager Mickey Harte admits that while his side had "a bad day at the office" against Donegal, he is anticipating that they will rise to the challenges the forthcoming fixtures against Mayo and Kerry will pose.

"It's a tough run-in for us but we have to take a positive stance. While it was disappointing to lose to Donegal, we have to move on. We were well beaten at the end of it all, we had a bad day at the office and that's something that we have to accept," conceded Harte.

"Mayo will come to us in search of points following their defeat to Cavan so we know they will pose a difficult challenge and we have to be ready for this. While the conditions did not suit our running game against Donegal, we hope to do better next Sunday and of course against Kerry the following week.

"The league title is still within our gambit as it is within the compass of other sides."

But some stark statistics from Saturday night's loss have provided Harte with much food for thought.

His side were held scoreless for 35 minutes of what turned out to be a lengthy 44-minute second half; Donegal's two midfield players Ciaran Thompson and Hugh McFadden scored five points from play between them; two defenders also hit the target and Tyrone landed just three points from play overall while 11 of Gallagher's side's 12 points came from play.

Yet as things stand, Tyrone have won three games and drawn and lost one, a record shared by Donegal and Monaghan, while Dublin have won two games and drawn three.

Interestingly, Dublin only beat Tyrone by a point in the 2013 final (0-18 to 0-17), a win that triggered their dominance of the competition since then which embraces four titles in all.

Sean Cavanagh is the only player in the Tyrone squad who is in possession of an Allianz League Division One medal and having skippered the side to the Division Two title last year, he is particularly keen to see Tyrone become outright league champions this time round in what could be his last year in the county jersey.

Yet while plaudits have been heaped on Donegal following Saturday's win, there is certainly no danger of manager Gallagher and his players losing the run of themselves.

While it was the O'Neill County's biggest margin of defeat for some two years, Gallagher is all too aware of the heartbreak his side endured at their hands in last year's Ulster final when they succumbed to late points from Peter Harte and Cavanagh.

Belfast Telegraph

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