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Cole has key role as Tyrone plot defence

By John Campbell

Martin Cole has been handed a key role in the Down defence for tomorrow's Ulster Senior Football Championship clash against Tyrone at Healy Park, Omagh.

Cole will fill the full-back role in an amended Down defence having played much of his football at county level to date in a corner back position.

Manager Ross Carr has been particularly pleased by Cole's consistency and believes that he can help to shackle a Tyrone attack that will be boosted by the presence of Brian McGuigan and Brian Dooher.

"Obviously every defender has a big part to play and I think that Martin can help shore up the centre," says Carr.

"Tyrone may be missing some key players but they are still a very strong side - and they have home advantage too."

Cole is flanked by Luke Howard and Colm Murney in a Down full-back line that is short on experience but high on energy and resolve.

Corner back Howard, who has come up through the Minor and Under 21 ranks, is likely to engage in a head to head with Colm McCullagh, a player who showed impressive form for Tyrone during the National League.

Bryansford clubman Howard insists that the Down defence can hold the key to victory.

"I think what we have to do is to show that we can hold the Tyrone attack.

"They have so much talent in there and you have to look at the options they have on the bench. Their half-forward line of Brian Dooher, Brian McGuigan and Enda McGinley is as good as there is in the entire country," maintains Howard.

Martin Penrose may be viewed as something of a surprise choice in the Tyrone side but the lithe corner forward is relishing the chance of making a big impact in the Championship.

"It's great to be in the starting line-up but we all know that we have to produce the goods. There will be a lot of guys just waiting to get into the action," says Penrose.

Sean Cavanagh and Colin Holmes bring considerable experience to the Tyrone midfield and the will get useful assistance from Dooher and McGuigan particularly in relation to the winning of second-phase possession - always a key element of championship games in particular.

Yet the Down half-forward division of John Fegan, Ronan Murtagh and Daniel Hughes not only possesses defensive qualities but can put scores on the board. Hughes in particular has been in hot form for the most part this year and, assuming he is fully-fit after injury, he could prove a thorn in the side of the Red Hands defence.

Murtagh played at wing-back of late but has returned to the attack where he will pull the strings from centre threequarters - in theory anyway.

Championship teams are released not necessarily with a view to informing the fans of the line-ups but quite often with the emphasis very much on confusing the opposition.

How Down will line out from a positional viewpoint remains to be seen although it can be assumed that, even though he has been suspended, Carr's imprint will be on their strategy.

And Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has already made it clear that he expects nothing less than "a total performance" from his side.

With Justin McMahon and Damien McCaul in his defence and so much experience in his half- forward line, Harte has come up with a cocktail that might prove too potent for Down.

Belfast Telegraph


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