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Tyrone are striving to step it up for Farney challenge

By John Campbell

The renowned McLoughlin brothers, Ray and Feidhlim, won a combined 41 caps for the Ireland rugby team between 1962-75.

The problem from Feidhlim's viewpoint was that his legendary sibling won 40 of those as one of the best prop forwards ever to play for his country, captaining the side on seven occasions before becoming an international business mogul.

The careers of the McLoughlins could be said to have a parallel with the current Tyrone senior football team which has defied the pundits, league form and some would say convention by reaching the All-Ireland quarter-finals in which they will meet Monaghan at Croke Park on Saturday.

Full-forward and skipper Sean Cavanagh and centre-half-forward Mark Bradley have 81 Championship appearances between them - but the latter has a long way to go to catch up with his triple All-Ireland-winning team-mate, who has amassed 77 caps to date.

Yet the challenge does not intimidate the ebullient Bradley, whose play-making skills have convinced manager Mickey Harte that he could have an important role to fulfil for some time.

Bradley was once again lively and inventive in Saturday's 0-21 to 0-14 qualifier win over Sligo and now sees the clash with Monaghan as a pivotal test in his development.

"While it is nice to be playing again in Croke Park for the second time within a week, it is important that our recovery process is successful," pointed out Bradley.

"We are now going into the business end of the season against a Monaghan side which has played in Division One this year and which has already won the Ulster title. We have been building momentum but obviously Monaghan will be a step up for us."

Four successive qualifier victories will undoubtedly send the Red Hands into battle again armed with confidence, their fusion of youth and experience now viewed as something of a lethal cocktail not just by Monaghan but by the rest of the teams still in the All-Ireland title race.

And no one is more delighted to see this than skipper Cavanagh, still as influential as ever after 13 extremely rewarding years in the side.

"Obviously younger players like Mark Bradley and others are keeping the rest of us on our toes but that's a good thing," maintained Cavanagh. "We knew that Sligo were not going to be easy last Saturday and Monaghan will be an even bigger proposition."

Manager Harte will certainly have some interesting selection options to ponder when he sits down to select his side that will bid to repeat the county's 2013 All-Ireland quarter-final win over the Farney team.

Harte believes that his side's winning streak has helped to nurture confidence.

"Victories always help because since we were beaten by Donegal we have been in the last-chance saloon. We have now come through four qualifiers," stated Harte.

"But we now have to play better against Monaghan. We have to take on board the fact that we are still making unforced errors. We have to try and iron out as many of those as we can."

Belfast Telegraph


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