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Tuesday, 13 November, 2018

Sludden can steer Tyrone to the last four

Armagh may choke in semi

Tyrone's Niall Sludden challenges Jack McCaffrey of Dublin
1 of 1

Sky Sports Arena, from 4pm Saturday

This year's Tyrone team are tremendously exciting and a return to Croke Park can bring out the best in Mickey Harte's men. They are fancied to defy a five-point handicap against Armagh and book their ticket to the All-Ireland semi-finals in style. 

Mickey Harte's men won back-to-back Ulster titles thanks to wins over Derry (0-22 to 0-11), Donegal (1-21 to 1-12) and Down (2-17 to 0-15). All three were straightforward successes and no team have come close to challenging their route to Croke Park.

They had 11 individual scorers in that success over Down and Ronan O’Neill’s two goals off the bench proved the difference and killed off the Down charge. 

The doubters are saying Tyrone do not have enough quality forwards but the in-form Niall Sludden and Mark Bradley could prove them wrong. Lee Brennan would surely get in every side in the country and he can make his way into Harte's plans. 

Armagh have gathered a head of steam in the qualifiers and their recent victories over Tipperary and Kildare were easy on the eye. Their second-half displays in those matches were most impressive. Jamie Clarke was the star of the show in last weekend’s win over the Lilywhites with his four points from play earning him the man-of-the- match award on Sky Sports.

But Clarke and co may struggle to find space this time. Tyrone did not concede any more than 15 points during their successful Ulster voyage and Armagh might not have enough ammunition to surpass that total either.

Tyrone have a seriously effective system that has the potential to hurt Armagh and a wide-margin win looks in store. 

Sludden was spectacular on his last visit to Croke Park when breaking through the Dublin defence time and time again in their Division 1 league clash last winter and he looks great value at 11-1 for the man-of-the-match award. 

The second serving at Croke Park sees Dublin return to action and Monaghan will surely put up a sterner test than any side could in Leinster. 

Kildare got within nine points of Kildare in the Leinster final. The Monaghan side are further down the line than the Lilywhites and they can stay within a generous ten-point handicap. 

Dublin have been in flying form in 2017, losing only once and that was narrowly to Kerry in the Division 1 decider. It looks as though the production line is still rolling in the capital with Con O’Callaghan the latest graduate.

The Cuala star scored 12 points in the Leinster final against Kildare and was virtually unmarkable, while the old-stagers such as Bernard Brogan are still capable of getting scores when called upon. There appears to be few weaknesses in this Dublin side. 

Monaghan suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Down in the Ulster semi-final, but they have bounced back to form since with wins over Wexford, Carlow and Down on their way to this All-Ireland quarter-final.

The midfield partnership of Kieran and Darren Hughes continue to lead the Monaghan team, while Conor McManus bounced back to top-form against Down, notching ten points. They have forwards who are capable of scoring from distance and that can keep them in touch. 

Monaghan’s last two clashes with Dublin saw only a score separating them in Division 1 of the league, with the Ulster men getting incredible contributions from their the two star attackers on each occasion.

Last year Conor McManus landed 0-12 at Croke Park in a 1-14 to 0-16 defeat to the Dubs, while in April Jack McCarron was the star of the show in Clones as the Currin star struck for 1-9 when the hosts were agonisingly denied by the Dubs in the final stages of an epic encounter. 

McCarron has been performing well below expectations this summer and his introduction as a half-time substitute against Down was his first meaningful contribution in the championship. Perhaps that is the way to use him. 

Monaghan led Dublin a merry dance in the early stages of their league encounter earlier this year and they look a big price at 6-1 to lead at half-time. 

A comfortable Dublin success could well be on the cards, but it might not be by as much as the betting suggests. Expect Malachy O'Rourke's men to stay in contention until the final quarter.

Recommendations
Tyrone -5
3pts Evs general
Niall Sludden man of the match
1pt 11-1 Paddy Power
Monaghan +10
3pts 8-11 Paddy Power, Coral
Monaghan to lead at half-time
1pt 6-1 BoyleSports

The doubters are saying Tyrone do not have enough quality forwards but the in-form Niall Sludden and Mark Bradley could prove them wrong
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