Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Tyrone's brothers in arms breaking up

Power play: Sean Cavanagh is playing some of the best football of his career for Tyrone right now

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte finds himself on the horns of a dilemma in the build-up to Saturday's mouth-watering All-Ireland quarter-final meeting with newly-crowned Ulster champions Monaghan at Croke Park.

Harte, clearly pleased that his team has confounded the critics to date by reaching the last eight, is faced with at least one major selection decision as he draws up his blueprint for the contest.

While Sean Cavanagh has been Tyrone's best player by a distance of late, his brother Colm, who operates alongside him in forming the midfield axis, has been substituted in the most recent games against Kildare and Meath.

And this could lead to Augher's Aidan Cassidy earning a starting place against the Farney county following his impressive contributions when brought on from the bench during Tyrone's quietly efficient march to this advanced stage of the competition.

Cassidy scored a point against Meath last Saturday to cement a solid performance having previously bolstered the engine-room after answering an SOS against Kildare and would now appear to have enhanced his CV to such an extent that Harte might find it difficult to overlook him when he announces his starting team on Thursday night.

But the Tyrone manager, who is more than happy to eulogise Sean Cavanagh's magnificent form, is otherwise prepared to keep his cards close to his chest as he prepares to lock horns again with the team which his side beat in the Ulster finals of 2007 and 2010.

"I think that Sean played one of his best-ever games in the Tyrone jersey against Meath last weekend," observes Harte.

"His input was special. I think that the quality of his play provides us with extra leadership."

Cavanagh will of course have a key role again against Monaghan when he is certain to be confronted by the opposition skipper Own Lennon who like Cavanagh is enjoying a rich vein of form in the twilight of his career.

But while Cavanagh has a shoal of honours to show for his endeavours at the coal face, Lennon has had to exercise considerable patience before winning the sole Ulster medal which has now been in his possession for just over a fortnight.

While the Cavanagh-Lennon duel will be a primary battle within the context of Saturday's overall war, the possibility that Cassidy will be at Cavanagh's shoulder has now increased.

Colm Cavanagh (pictured) has experienced difficulty in acclimatising himself to the blistering pace of the last two games and may start Saturday's contest from the bench.

Harte too is anxious that his players should exercise discipline although he has hit back at the criticism which was directed at his players after last Saturday's game because of the alleged cynicism in which they engaged in the closing stages in particular as they sought to protect their lead.

Harte has already made it clear that he felt Meath were equally culpable in the context of cynical fouling at various stages of the battle.

But with referees now more alert to this aspect of play, it can be assumed that Tyrone's tactics will come under greater scrutiny in Saturday's showdown.

Harte can take considerable comfort from the fact that Dermot Carlin, who has suffered a series of injuries recently, joined Cassidy on the score sheet on Saturday last by hitting a point after coming on from the bench

Like Cassidy, he has thrust himself into a starting place for the game against Monaghan.

And while there is a solid belief that Tyrone hold the whip hand over Malachy O'Rourke's team because of their recent tradition of success against them, Harte makes the point that this guarantees his side "absolutely nothing" in the contest of Saturday's tie.

"Monaghan will quite rightly enter Croke Park in confident mood following their victory in the Ulster final over the All-Ireland champions and that is totally understandable," states Harte.

"They will feel they can push on from here and they have had time from the final in which to catch their breath.

"We have now been on the road for the past few weeks but the players are certainly thriving in match environments."

Inspirational Tyrone skipper Stephen O'Neill of course will be available for selection as his late expulsion against Meath was on the basis of a second yellow card.

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