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Tyrone to conquer Ulster once again on their way to business end of championship

Former All-Star Owen Mulligan thinks his native county will have a big say

Tyrone’s Mattie Donnelly (left) shields the ball against Derry’s Neil Forester in the McKenna Cup final
1 of 1

This Dublin side is one of the best teams to have ever played the game so it is going to take something extraordinary to stop them in their tracks.

Question marks seem to be hanging over them since their lethargic league campaign but it would be foolish to read too much into that as I got the impression Jim Gavin was in experimenting mode and it was the performance of certain players rather than results that he was most interested in.

Gavin did not find that marquee player he was craving in the spring. There doesn't appear to be a Dean Rocks or Paul Mannions coming out of the long grass but his decision to recall Rory O'Carroll to the squad is a shrewd move.

Monaghan and Tyrone exploited Dublin's weakness in their full-back line in the league. Too many teams are getting joy from launching long, high and hopeful deliveries into target men on the edge of the square so Gavin has acted quickly in an attempt to stop that threat.

O'Carroll has been exceptional of late in the Dublin club championship and I expect his transition back into the Dublin side to be seamless. He is a top-class defender who looks sure to strengthen this Dublin side.

There are about three or four teams who are able to stick with Dublin for an hour but they simply cannot cope in those ferocious final ten minutes of games. That is when Dublin pounce. They have superior fitness levels and have so much experience of playing and winning together. That's huge.

It is Dublin's All-Ireland to lose but they are not much value at their current odds.

There is no doubt in my mind that my native Tyrone are once again the main danger to Dublin's dominance.

I went to their first few league games and I feared the worst, I really did. They were sluggish, especially in Killarney against Kerry, and appeared to be suffering from a stinging All-Ireland final hangover.

But the draw with Roscommon turned around their league campaign and they finished with a flourish. Indeed, there were a little unlucky not to reach the Division 1 decider.

Tyrone were excellent to watch in the latter stages of the league. They adopted a kicking game and left a presence up front, something they hadn't been doing in recent years.

Using Mattie Donnelly and Cathal McShane as the two inside forwards has worked wonders. The likes of Mark Bradley, Darren McCurry and Conor McAliskey have been used in that position over the years but they lack the physical presence to make an impact against the best sides. The new pairing are strong and can win their own ball. I like it.

Tyrone need to be direct and brave to bring it to the next level. I certainly think Ulster is theirs for the taking and I would be surprised if they did not take provincial honours on the way to bigger things this summer. This is a Tyrone side on the up and one I like a lot.

Connacht can go to Mayo as Damien Comer's absence from the Galway side until mid-June is going to prove problematic. He is their marquee player who stood out on their voyage to last year's All-Ireland semi-final. They will miss him.

James Horan has Mayo back believing again. To win the league was massive monkey off their backs and they are All-Ireland contenders. Do you think Horan would have returned if he didn't think they were? Of course he wouldn't.

In order for Mayo to have the best possible chance of All-Ireland glory I do believe they must win Connacht first.

It will be hard to keep Kerry out of the equation too but Dublin, Tyrone and Mayo would be ahead of them in my pecking order.

In saying that, I do think Kerry have one of the most promising players around in Sean O'Shea. He scored 1-55 in eight games for the Kingdom during the league, that's an astonishing average of 7.2 points per game, and it was his maiden league campaign too.

I know all the talk in Kerry has been about David Clifford but this O'Shea guy has got everything. He doesn't just want the ball, he demands it. He's slick in possession and there always seems to be an end product. He is already an invaluable member of the Kerry attack.

It is a foregone conclusion that Kerry will reach the Super 8s given how weak Munster is right now so we will be seeing a lot of O'Shea this summer and 16-1 about him being crowned Footballer of the Year next autumn looks attractive to me.

Recommendations
Tyrone to reach All-Ireland semi-final
2pts 6-5 Betfair, Paddy Power
Tyrone to win Ulster
2pts 7-4 Betway, Ladbrokes
Mayo to win Connacht
2pts 6-4 Sky Bet
Sean O'Shea Footballer of the Year
1pt 16-1 Betfair, Paddy Power


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There is no doubt in my mind that my native Tyrone are once again the main danger to Dublin's dominance
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