Dublin v Tyrone: Big names left out for Croke Park test as Harte wields axe
Tyrone may have careered to a comfortable victory over Roscommon last weekend but that has not stopped manager Mickey Harte from undertaking surgery to his line-up for tomorrow’s eagerly-awaited brush with Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
Harte has axed long-serving defender Ryan McMenamin along with attacking hopefuls Tommy McGuigan and Kyle Coney and instead restored Justin McMahon, Martin Penrose and Owen Mulligan to his side for the biggest game of the year to date.
Even though Tyrone have hurdled Longford, Armagh and Roscommon in the qualifiers, the writing has been on the wall for McMenamin following his substitution in the last two games while Harte clearly feels that the greater experience of inside forwards Penrose and Mulligan will pose problems for the Dubs rearguard.
Mulligan had temporarily opted out of the squad but recent performances when summoned from the bench have earned him a recall for what could prove a defining test for his team.
Justin McMahon will slot in alongside his brother Joe in a defence that will be anchored by Conor Gormley and which also includes broken nose victim Martin Swift. Penrose meanwhile gets the chance to reproduce the form that made him one of the team’s best forwards earlier in the year.
Surprisingly, neither Stephen O’Neill nor McMenamin are named in the 26-strong match panel even though the former was reported as being fully fit. Captain Brian Dooher is again held in reserve as are All-Ireland winning veterans Enda McGinley and Davy Harte.
The Tyrone boss also warned his players last night that Dublin will not be putting all their scoring eggs into the one basket.
Harte, aware that Kerry, Donegal and Mayo who have already made it through to the semi-finals have been befitting from a spread of scorers in important games, is anxious that this lesson should be fully absorbed by his squad.
No fewer than nine players were on target for Donegal in their win over Kildare last weekend while half a dozen shared in Mayo’s scoring blitz against Cork and eight Kerry scorers helped their side end Limerick’s hopes.
Now Harte is making it clear that while Bernard Brogan undoubtedly represents a major threat, other players are in his estimation “more than capable of hurting us”.
“Dublin have a number of players who can come through and take scores and we have to be very watchful,” points out Harte.
While he is keeping the precise details of his defensive strategy under wraps for the moment, Harte may decide to detail Joe McMahon and Conor Gormley, two of the best man markers in the sport, to police the Brogan brothers Bernard and Alan depending on Dublin’s attacking formation.
But he is aware that players such as Bryan Cullen and Paul Flynn can plunder scores while centre-half-back Ger Brennan can also hit the target.
Dublin manager Pat Gilroy appeared with some of his players at an 8am press conference today, something that is now quite normal in the build-up to big games involving his side.
The fact that Tyrone’s fourth round qualifier meeting with Roscommon was delayed for a week gave Dublin extra time in which to get ready for tomorrow.
“Obviously we would like to have the chance to maintain the momentum we built up but on the other hand the extra week has given boys like Philly McMahon, Ross McConnell and Michael Daragh Macauley the chance to become fit,” observes Gilroy.
Tyrone: P McConnell; M Swift, Joe McMahon, Justin McMahon; S O’Neill, C Gormley, P Jordan; K Hughes, S Cavanagh; C Cavanagh, B McGuigan, P Harte; M Penrose, M Donnelly, O Mulligan.