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Tyrone out to find the extra spark to deck Dubs

By John Campbell

When Tyrone confront Dublin in the second round of Allianz Football League Division One at Croke Park tomorrow, they will not only be seeking the two points on offer but will be bidding to end their opponents' 30-match unbeaten run in league and championship.

Kerry were the last side to emerge victorious against Jim Gavin's team back in 2015 but the Red Hands, fresh from their opening league win over Roscommon last weekend, are now intent on throwing a spanner into their hosts' works.

It's a match that is expected to produce a fresh level of intensity, certainly by league standards, yet one former Tyrone player takes a different perspective on what is viewed as a mouth-watering Headquarters tie.

Ciaran McBride played for Tyrone in the 90's and in his role as a school coach has helped to mould the careers of many of the current players.

Yet McBride, who manages the Monaghan U21 team, does not subscribe to the widely-held belief that football is currently more intense than ever given the higher levels of fitness, greater dedication and rather spartan lifestyles of inter-county players.

"Obviously there is still a big level of intensity and commitment in games but I think things have to be taken in context," points out McBride.

"When I was playing for Tyrone, all championship games were knock-out affairs, teams did not take the league quite as seriously and there were fewer games so the demands on players were not as great.

"That's in rather sharp contrast to nowadays. You have the back door system which provides a safety net of sorts for teams which I believe has taken an edge off matters until you get to the All-Ireland quarter-final stage.

"When I was playing, because there were less games, more people went to them and there was massive media interest."

McBride also points to the fact that the nature of some of the provincial championships decrees that they lack the passion, competitiveness and raw physicality which still underpin the Ulster Championship.

"In some of the southern counties the high levels of intensity are not there until provincial finals are reached. In Ulster, though, you will always have the chance of getting it," he maintains.

It was in 1995 that McBride was a member of the Tyrone side that suffered an injustice in the All-Ireland final against Dublin when Peter Canavan was harshly penalised for touching the ball on the ground when a draw looked likely - a decision that was to cost the team the chance of bringing home the Sam Maguire Cup as they lost by 1-10 to 0-12.

"Dublin have owned the league title for the past few years and that might be because other teams are maybe not bringing the right level of intensity to the table," he states.

"Then when you look at the championship the back door helps the bigger teams although you have to admire what Tipperary achieved last year in reaching the All-Ireland semi-finals.

"Now we have a proposal regarding a round robin league system at the quarter-final stage of the All-Ireland and for me this will only allow the strong teams to get even stronger. I don't see any sides making the big breakthrough because of this proposed new system.

"Teams like Dublin, Mayo and Kerry will continue to get to the semi-finals.

"Ulster is still a bit of a minefield but there are teams who can get there.

"I personally believe that the euphoria and excitement that traditionally surrounded the earlier rounds of the championship have gone forever."

Belfast Telegraph

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