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Thursday, 17 January, 2019

Harte and head say it's Tyrone's time to come good

Ageing Dublin too short for title hat-trick

Peter Harte has developed into a star for Tyrone
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The boring thing to do would be to tip Dublin. The tempting thing to do is to take them on with Kerry. The silly thing to do would be to give Mayo one more chance.

But the right thing to do could be snap up the 9-1 about Tyrone giving manager Mickey Harte and long-time servant Sean Cavanagh the perfect send-off.

Tyrone last lifted the Sam Maguire in 2008 but they have been knocking on the door in the last two years and were desperately unlucky to bow out at the quarter-final stage last summer when losing by a single point to Mayo.

They were the better side in that encounter and would have won with a bit to spare had they shown more composure in the final quarter. They panicked and paid the price.

Tyrone were semi-finalists in 2016 and could have beaten Kerry in that last-four showdown. The sides were level with eight minutes left and, had referee Maurice Deegan awarded Padriag McNulty a penalty with five minutes remaining instead of booking him for diving, they probably would have won.

Tyrone have progressed since then too. They were crowned Ulster champions in 2016, their first provincial title since 2010, after beating Derry, Cavan (after a replay) and Donegal and there were more positives than negatives to be taken out of their league campaign this spring.

They hit the ground running and took three wins and a draw out of their opening four games. The stalemate came against Dublin in round two, a game they controlled for long periods. Indeed they were 1-7 to 0-5 and the hosts needed to get the last five points of the game to draw it.

Those 70 minutes gave the strong impression that Tyrone have what it takes to take down Dublin should they meet in the All-Ireland semi-final a few months time.

They ended the campaign with three defeats on the trot at the hands of Donegal, Mayo and Kerry.

They should have won the middle one of those easily but were punished with a late sucker-punch from Kevin McLoughlin. The impression is that Harte has geared everything towards the summer and those final three league outings were more of a distraction than anything else.

With Tyrone you are getting two chances. They are favourites to win Ulster again but should they slip on a banana skin like Donegal or Monaghan they have shown in the past that they can go all the way through the back door. The qualifier series does not do them any harm at all.

The experts seem to think that Tyrone do not have enough quality forwards to go all the way but they may be wrong. Niall Sludden has been a huge addition and the pace of the Dromore clubman could be their lethal weapon in 2017.

Dublin could not cope with him in their league tussle and plenty of teams will struggle to curb his influence this summer too.

Peter Harte is a star and, arguably one of the top five footballers in the country, and when he is deployed in the half-forward line he adds an extra dimension to Tyrone going forward.

Darren McCurry, Cathal McShane and Mark Bradley are quality forwards too and the aforementioned Cavanagh, who is surely going to hang up his boots at the end of the campaign, is also a natural scorer.

If Harte allows Tyrone to be slightly more adventurous than they were over the last two years, that could be the keys to the kingdom.
Colm Cavanagh is a superb sweeper and his spacial awareness and ability to read the game is a vital asset to Tyrone. Mattie Donnelly is the key link between defence and attack and would get on any side in the country.

They have got plenty of pieces of the jigsaw in place over the last two years, perhaps the final piece can be securely placed on the third Sunday of September.

It goes without saying that Dublin will be tough to beat but their key players have a lot of miles on the clock and they will need someone like Paul Mannion to step up and become a consistent scorer. He has a huge amount of ability.

Dublin are the right price at about 6-4. You could certainly not say that is value given that they will probably have to beat both Tyrone and Kerry to defend their title. It’s hard to say with any confidence that this Dublin team as good as the one who gracefully glided to glory in 2015.

Kerry have a big chance but the recent retirement of Colm Cooper limits their options up front. They might lack vital experience in key areas and will need James O’Donoghue to bounce back to his best if they are to go all the way.

Mayo do not appeal at all. Every bounce of the ball went in their favour last year and they still could not get over the line. They were poor in the main during the league and look a tired team.

It would be surprising to see them reach the All-Ireland final again.
They have yet to find a consistent scorer to take some of the responsibility away from Cillian O’Connor.

Of the outsiders, perhaps Monaghan might be able to reach the last four. They should get to the Ulster final given that they are on the easy side of the draw and they have a superstar in Jack McCarron.
But it is doubtful that they are good enough to go all the way.

Tyrone are far more advanced and quotes of 9-1 with Coral, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power are generous about a team that have not been within touching distance of the holy grail in the last two years.

Tyrone to win All-Ireland SFC
2pts 9-1 Coral, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power

It goes without saying that Dublin will be tough to beat but their key players have a lot of miles on the clock
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