With the 2022 championship ahead of us, rest assured that last June there were very few people who tipped Tyrone to bring Sam home to Red Hand County.
The 16-point annihilation of Kerry in the league semi-finals had left many question marks hanging over their ambitions under the new leadership of Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan. A few months later Tyrone was All Ireland Champion and no one could deny that it was undeserved. See, that’s what makes Tyrone so intriguing. You just can’t trust Tyrone – and that’s meant as a compliment!
Anyone can prepare physically and tactically, but Tyrone’s greatest strength when they arrive at Croke Park was their mental fitness and belief in their ability to deliver as a team.
Tyrone is the first of the big teams to spring into action against Fermanagh in Enniskillen this weekend and in many ways there are once again question marks over the All Ireland champions as they embark on defending their title.
The most immediate concern is the depth of their panel and the loss of seven players in the off-season. The modern inter-country player tends to make better decisions and ensure he takes care of his career and personal development. They also make these life choices for a reason – and usually it’s related to a lack of playing time or poor squad management.
The fact that up to seven players have signed off – including key players like Tiernan McCann and Mark Bradley – is a matter of great concern. Everyone is free to draw their own conclusions, but the bottom line is that it raises questions about Dooher and Logan’s broader management of the squad.
Tyrone may have survived in Division 1 as well, but I’m very reluctant to read too much into league form this year given the appalling conditions for many of the games. That said, there were still some worrying signs of the consistency of their performance.
They suffered from a holiday hangover in Orlando in their first few games before stumbling to a Round 3 win over Kildare. They finished the league with four points against a Mayo team that looked like they didn’t want to win in Omagh and a Kerry side that had already qualified for the league finals.
While the records say they stayed in Division 1, one could argue they were no better than the Dubs or Kildare who were relegated. With a depleted roster and the poor form that has been on display all spring, can you write Tyrone off for this year’s championships? Absolutely not. Kerry has clinched a league victory and will be the favorite for most people when it comes to bringing Sam back to the kingdom. However, if you shortlist the teams with the potential to take down Kerry, Tyrone will be at the top of the page.
Everyone loves teams that play hand-to-hand soccer. Express yourself and play on the front foot by taking risks and using the long kick pass.
All the stuff that fits the populist view. Great to see! The way to play real football! Always highly acclaimed by fans until their team knocked out of goal.
The bottom line is that any team looking to win this year’s All-Ireland must have a solid defensive structure that protects the goalscorers and their exposure to conceding goals.
Any team looking to play attractive head-to-head football against this developing Kerry team will be in serious trouble and potentially be beaten badly. All top teams have to adapt to their opponents and play to their strengths. That puts Tyrone back in the game, I think, despite the questions raised in the spring. Also, let’s not forget that the new qualification system offers a much shorter route back to Croke Park for the All Ireland Quarterfinals. Should Tyrone fail against Fermanagh, which is unlikely, or against Derry at Celtic Park, which is possible, it would simply take two extra games against a potentially weaker opponent to return to the quarter-finals.
For me, Tyrone is the only team that can adjust their playstyle, and despite losing a few roster players, they still have the components to compete at the business end of the championship.
You would expect them to have done work to improve their defensive structure for the Championship. A return to form from Pádraig Hampsey and more playing time for Ronan McNamee will bolster their defence, which has been erratic at times throughout the league.
The quartet Conor Meyler, Peter Harte, Kieran McGeary and Niall Sludden are the main links in the middle third. They’re good at defending, they’re good at counterattacking, they’re all very good at controlling possession and they’re all constantly ticking the scoreboard.
First-class ball players who make good decisions when in possession. With Niall Morgan making more use of the long kick-out lately, last year’s rookie midfield partnership of Conn Kilpatrick and Brian Kennedy is looking much more impressive after impressive league campaigns.
If Tyrone is going to take on a serious challenge, they need to stick together up front. Darren McCurry is a massive threat to any team and Darragh Canavan has the creativity to open up opposing defenses. However, the form of Cathal McShane and Conor McKenna remains a major concern.
We’ve often learned never to write Tyrone off or give them a purpose. While Dublin dwindles, Mayo has work to do and Kerry makes her way back to the top of the mountain, they will again be happily waiting in the long grass.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/gaelic-football/tyrone-havent-gone-away-they-may-be-depleted-but-they-are-serious-contenders-once-again-41555513.html Tyrone hasn’t walked away – they may be exhausted, but they’re serious contenders again