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Peter Canavan: Harte must play it clever and ensure there's plenty left in the Tyrone tank

Old rivals: Tyrone boss Mickey Harte is consoled by Jim Gavin of Dublin after defeat in last year’s All-Ireland final
Old rivals: Tyrone boss Mickey Harte is consoled by Jim Gavin of Dublin after defeat in last year’s All-Ireland final

By Peter Canavan

On Sky we had a debate about how Tyrone should approach their date with Dublin next weekend. In usual circumstances a rematch between last year's All-Ireland finalists at this stage of the competition would whet the appetite, but it's not as straightforward as that. It's a dead-rubber, with only top spot in the group at stake.

Kieran Donaghy reckoned the time was right for Tyrone to go and lay down a marker, that having pushed Dublin hard in Omagh last year they might just be able to tip them over the edge once more. If they could plant a seed of doubt in Dublin's minds, then why not go all out to do it?

I could see what he meant but the more I've thought about it, I think it would be wrong to send out your full team and go hell for leather.

A lot of people have pointed to the example of Galway as to the pitfalls of being in a position like this, where you are already qualified with a game to play in the Super 8s.

Their situation last year was very different, however.

Had they won that day against Monaghan in Salthill they'd have avoided Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final, which in itself is a considerable carrot.

For Tyrone and Dublin, they are only playing for top spot and depending on how things go in the other group they'll be playing either Mayo, Donegal or Kerry. There's not much between those teams, particularly the latter two, and so there's no real advantage whether you come first or second.

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So, I think Mickey Harte will have learned from the Galway experience of last year.

When they beat Cork and secured a spot in the last four, he'll have looked at it like he has three weeks to prepare for an All-Ireland semi-final.

With hindsight, Galway could have done something similar and put all their energies into preparing for that game rather than try to see off Monaghan. When they lost, it meant they had just a week to prepare for football's biggest test - tackling the Dubs in Croke Park.

All of a sudden, Kevin Walsh had to deal with a defeat, low morale and sore bodies. And while they were in touch with Dublin at half-time, they just couldn't stick the pace.

So there are too many psychological and physical consequences to pushing the boat out for this game for Tyrone.

What if they pick up an injury? What if Petey Harte is shown another black card, meaning he would miss the All-Ireland semi-final through suspension?

It's precisely the same scenario for Dublin. Last year, Jim Gavin gave a few of his squad members a run out against Roscommon, knowing they had a game the following weekend.

Gavin is probably in a slightly different situation given the depth of his panel - he can change his team around and not weaken it significantly - but the same principle stands.

There's too much risk for very little reward in going after this game full tilt when they'll face a real test either six or seven days later.

That's not to say Sunday's clash will be a dead-rubber for the players themselves. There may be nothing at stake in terms of the result, but the individuals have lots to play for.

Both managers would know maybe 13 of their starting 15 for the following week. Everything else is up for grabs, so it's a chance to impress for panel members.

Occupying jerseys No.24 to 34 is the worst position to be in. They are making the same sacrifices and doing the same training.

In fact, you could argue that their sacrifice is even greater given that they are doing all the same work for none of the rewards in terms of minutes on the pitch. So there'll still be plenty of bite and a good crowd in Healy Park.

Of the five managers still in with a shout of winning Sam Maguire, I'd rather be in Harte's or Gavin's shoes. They have control of their schedule. The rest can't leave anything to chance this weekend. Peter Keane and Kerry will be expected to win in Navan, but Meath will look to end their good season on a flourish. Teams with nothing to lose are dangerous animals. Over in Castlebar, Donegal and Mayo will bring each other to the brink and have just a week to recover for an All-Ireland semi-final.

For me, that's one of the faults of the Super 8s format. There are two teams going into All-Ireland semi-finals who will have a distinct advantage over the other two. For me, the three Super 8s' games should be played on consecutive weekends and then give everyone the fortnight to prepare for their last four game.

I'd also like the Croke Park round scrapped. These are big games, and packed smaller venues are a much better occasion than a Croke Park where you can hear players calling to each other, as was the case for the Tyrone-Cork game last weekend.

Otherwise, I like concept. There are dead-rubbers this year but there'll also be years when we go into the final day with everything to play for, so you have to take the rough with the smooth. With a little bit of tweaking, I think the Super 8s will be kept beyond 2020.

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