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McShane and Cox fired up for big step forward

 

John Campbell

By John Campbell

In days gone by, the position of full-forward in a county team was akin to a revered role. The old adage was, 'give him the ball and he will do the rest', and thus players such as Down's Sean O'Neill, one of the greatest of them all, and other county marksmen worked their way into the history books.

As football evolved with the passing years, attacking philosophies became more complex, with managers seeking a greater range of scorers from within their sides and taking points from distance was elevated to an art form.

However, today it appears likely that we shall see a return to the days of yore when Tyrone square up to Roscommon in the All-Ireland Super 8s.

The Red Hands will look to the dynamic Cathal McShane, a revelation in the No.14 jersey this season, to spark further progress in the race to 'Sam', while Anthony Cunningham's born-again outfit will place a substantial layer of faith in their find of the year, striker Conor Cox, in their bid to claim another huge scalp.

McShane's gung-ho, no-frills approach is viewed as a breath of fresh air in an era when their own convoluted tactics tend to trip teams up, while the measured approach adopted by Cox has revitalised Roscommon's attacking resources.

Yet these are but two players from what is an impressive overall cast.

Tyrone boss Mickey Harte will look to Ronan McNamee and Kieran McGeary to oversee defensive operations, place his faith in Colm Cavanagh's experience in the middle third of the park and lean on Mattie Donnelly and Peter Harte, who has been handed a reprieve following his black card trauma, to provide the ammunition for McShane.

If Tyrone's Championship surge has bred optimism, then four successive Connacht final appearances have done much to enhance Roscommon's credibility.

Cox's spectacular flair may have won him pin-up boy status in a county that has not won the All-Ireland title since 1944, but the tried and tested skills of forwards Diarmuid Murtagh and Enda Smith also continue to cement Roscommon's attacking armoury.

And with Tadhg O'Rourke and Shane Killoran workaholics in midfield, Cunningham's side bring impressive credentials to the table.

Yet Tyrone's overall efficiency, their penchant for turning defence into attack through lightning thrusts and the considerable strength on their bench can carry them a further step on what they hope will prove a journey to ultimate glory - Cox or no Cox.

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