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Former stars predict Red Hands recovery

By John Campbell

Tyrone may be down but they are most definitely not out.

Manager Mickey Harte has lost no time in reassuring his players that, despite their exit from the Ulster championship at the hands of title-holders Monaghan, the vision of All-Ireland glory will continue to underpin their ambitions.

While the Red Hands lick their wounds following a bruising physical and psychological battle, Harte is preparing his blueprint for the forthcoming qualifier tie against Louth comforted by the belief that their championship journey has encountered nothing more than a temporary blip.

And his outlook is not only shared by his enthusiastic squad but endorsed by former players embracing more recent decades.

When Tyrone reached the 1986 All-Ireland final, Paudge Quinn scored a goal which many thought had helped to swing the game in their favour but Kerry's craft and experience were to prove too much in the end.

Today Quinn oversees his family's thriving businesses in the Ballygawley area but remains passionately committed to the well-being of Tyrone football. Never one to mince his words, the Errigan Ciaran legend suggests that Tyrone can still progress in the All-Ireland series but laments the absence of what he refers to as "a real match-winner" in the side.

"The days of having players like Peter Canavan in there are over," says Quinn. "We don't have that kind of player who can swing a game in our favour.

"Sean Cavanagh has probably been our leading scorer in recent seasons and yet he is still seen as a midfielder.

"I would love to think that we might get a player of the calibre of Dublin's Diarmuid Connolly to come through – now that would be quite something. We need a real match-winner in there."

Quinn's dalliance with nostalgia is shared by Ciaran McBride, who played for Tyrone from 1991 until 2001 although he prefers to highlight achievements of a more recent vintage.

"The Tyrone team of the 2003 until 2008 period was the best ever to represent the county," insists schoolteacher McBride.

"The fact that they won three All Irelands speaks for itself.

"Having said that, the present side can still make progress in the qualifiers.

"I think that no teams will be too keen to face them because they will be a difficult proposition to handle."

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