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McNulty on red alert to make most of chance

 

By John Campbell

When Padraig McNulty incurred a red card while helping Tyrone to demolish Mayo in the Allianz League in March, he felt he had torpedoed his chances of seeing championship action with the Red Hands.

After all, with competition for places in the side intense at that stage, the build-up to the Ulster series opener against Monaghan moving into full swing and the carrot of a hat-trick of titles very much on the side's radar, McNulty's disappointment and indeed frustration were understandable.

But less than three months down the line, the backdrop has altered quite dramatically.

Tyrone's chances of a triple Ulster title coup have been vanquished by Monaghan, several high-profile players are on the injured list, another is suspended and Meath are promising a hot reception when the Red Hands bandwagon rolls into Pairc Tailteann, Navan today for an All-Ireland qualifier to which there is expected to be a decided cutting edge.

Yet it's into this environment that Dungannon Clarkes clubman McNulty will step with enthusiasm, commitment and a marked yearning to atone for his momentary lapse in discipline against a Mayo side that were not so much tamed as humbled in March on a 2-14 to 0-8 scoreline.

Three years have elapsed since McNulty made his championship debut against Donegal and while he may not have been a fixture in the side in the interim, he has always been on the fringes ready and willing to put his body on the line.

That's precisely what he intends to do today alongside a fit-again Colm Cavanagh in the Tyrone engine-room.

If Meath's eclipse by a perceived 'lesser' Longford side in the Leinster Championship was branded a shock, then Andy McEntee's side will certainly be putting their shoulder to the wheel today to prove that this was more a temporary blip than a worrying malaise.

No one is more aware of this than Tyrone boss Mickey Harte.

"Meath are a hardened side in terms of championship football, there's no doubt about that. They are at home, they are hurting following their defeat to Longford and they will want to make amends for that," he insisted.

"Meath have a strong championship tradition. They certainly won't have any worries about meeting us.

"We know that a qualifier match is last-chance saloon so we will need to put in a big effort."

The inclusion of McNulty at midfield is one of four chances to the Tyrone line-up from that which lost to Monaghan in the Ulster Championship last month.

Hugh Pat McGeary and Michael McKernan will start in defence in place of Cathal McCarron and the suspended Peter Harte while Richard Donnelly and McNulty replace Lee Brennan and Mark Bradley.

McNulty and Cavanagh will face the formidable Meath midfield pairing of Brian Menton and Paddy Kennelly. in what will undoubtedly be a feisty contest.

Meath vs Tyrone

All-Ireland qualifiers:

Navan, Today, 5.00pm

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