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Harte could give McCann a big chance to impress

 

Golden opportunity: Tiernan McCann may start for Tyrone against Dublin in the Super 8s
Golden opportunity: Tiernan McCann may start for Tyrone against Dublin in the Super 8s
John Campbell

By John Campbell

The backdrop against two of the concluding matches in the All-Ireland Super8s series this weekend could hardly be more contrasting.

When Mayo and Donegal cross swords at Elvery's McHale Park, Castlebar on Saturday night, it will be the ultimate must-win situation for each side.

But when Dublin and Tyrone go head-to-head at Healy Park, Omagh on Sunday (4pm), it will be to decide just which side emerges as Group Two winners. Indeed, a draw would do Jim Gavin's men as they already have a formidable superior scoring difference.

But it's in Group One that things are much less clear-cut, and where the nerves could be frayed.

Kerry, Donegal and Mayo are all bidding to squeeze through, with Meath the only team eliminated at this point in time.

With Kerry expected to beat Meath this weekend, this puts huge emphasis on the Mayo v Donegal game which both teams will be desperately keen to win.

The winner of Group One will meet the runner-up from Group Two, which means a clash with either Dublin or Tyrone, but neither Donegal or Mayo will be focusing on that possibility for now.

And while all teams bid to further boost their confidence this weekend, GAA chiefs will be assessing crowd figures in the wake of the huge numbers that flocked to the All-Ireland hurling semi-finals last weekend.

When Limerick met Kilkenny on Saturday night there was a crowd of 55,000 at Headquarters, while some 62,000 fans passed through the turnstiles for Sunday's meeting of Wexford and Tipperary.

There is perhaps more than a touch of irony in the fact that the capacity of Elvery's McHale Park, Castlebar will be reduced by some 6,000 for the visit of Donegal on Saturday.

This is because of safety reasons, but with one Donegal official predicting that his county could "sell out the ground ourselves for this match", and with Mayo fans revitalised following their team's victory over Meath, it's odds-on that the Castlebar venue will be bursting at the seams.

And even though there is not a lot at stake at Healy Park, Omagh, Dublin's box-office appeal and the fact that the match is being viewed as a dry run in some quarters ahead of another possible meeting between these sides within the next month when a lot more would be on the line have added considerable spice to the clash.

Tyrone's Tiernan McCann, who has been on the bench of late, could be given a starting role by manager Mickey Harte having come on as a substitute against Cork, and his experience could prove vital against the Dubs.

But while Dublin are undoubtedly still lord and masters of all they survey, concerns have been expressed in relation to what are regarded as disappointing attendances for some of their recent games at Croke Park.

Indeed, in Group Two overall there has been a decline in attendances, while the reverse is the case in Group One.

During the first two rounds of the Super8s series, Dublin's games were unusually outperformed in terms of attendances by other fixtures at the same stage of the competition.

After nearly two years of the Super8s, it has become clear that one of the most successful elements of the experiment has been the use of provincial grounds, which have been full to near capacity for matches featuring serious Championship challengers.

That's why the spotlight will be on Castlebar and Omagh as the final act in the Super8s is played out, with the All-Ireland semi-finals down for decision the following weekend.

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