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Cavanagh set to follow O'Neill's lead

By John Campbell

Sean Cavanagh is happy to take a leaf out of Stephen O'Neill's book as he prepares to lead Tyrone into their second round All-Ireland football qualifier against Roscommon at Dr Hyde Park on Saturday.

O'Neill was forced to miss last Saturday's first round win over Offaly and is now resigned to missing out on the action against the beaten Connacht semi-finalists.

But in turning to the vastly experienced Cavanagh to take up the captain's armband manager Mickey Harte is looking to a player who is currently replicating O'Neill's dynamic scoring touch.

In stepping into the breach as the Red Hands leader last week-end, Cavanagh landed five points from play, scored another from a free and might well have further garnished this impressive haul had he not been thwarted by the woodwork on no fewer than three occasions.

Cavanagh, operating from midfield, pulled the strings to such an extent against Offaly that long before half-time the outcome was a mere formality.

But Cavanagh is warning his players to exercise caution as they prepare to face Roscommon for the third time in the qualifiers.

"Roscommon will be hurting following that heavy defeat by Mayo in Connacht and we have to be careful," cautions Cavanagh.

"They have home advantage and they will want to show that they are much better than they were the last day. They have a number of quality players including some good forwards."

Tyrone boss Harte may be missing the services of O'Neill, Niall Morgan, Dermot Carlin and Justin McMahon but he is now confronted by interesting selection options following the impressive displays of Ronan O'Neill and Darren McCurry in the runaway 1-27 to 0-8 win over Offaly.

O'Neill, introduced as a substitute in what was his first game of the year following a long lay-off because of serious cruciate ligament and hamstring injuries, landed 1-2 while McCurry did even better scoring eight points with six of those coming from play.

Both are now pressing for starting spots while Joe McMahon, who was introduced from the bench at half-time at Tullamore, is also hoping to get the nod from the outset against Roscommon while Colm Cavanagh will be fit after picking up an ankle injury.

The form of O'Neill and McCurry is particularly pleasing to Harte at a time when he is seeking a greater spread of scorers within his side.

"Darren is a confidence player, very good on the ball and well able to take scores from all angles and distances," states Harte.

"And it's great to have Ronan back in there.

"He has had a bad time with injuries in recent months but he has shown great determination is getting himself back up to full fitness."

It was against Roscommon last year that McCurry made his debut when he scored five points from play and he has since progressed his career, especially in the Allianz League.

But such is the current level of competition for places in the Red Hands line-up that even his imposing scoring credentials do not guarantee automatic selection.

Belfast Telegraph


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