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Tyrone Will Arrive In Croke Park In August With A Very Unfamiliar Problem

Tyrone Will Arrive In Croke Park In August With A Very Unfamiliar Problem
Gavin Cooney
By Gavin Cooney
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It can be rarely said about the Ulster champions that they will want for battle-hardness come the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

When we accentuate the imbalance of the Championship, the most obvious lightning rod are the number of games: the Ulster champions will face three or four games to earn their quarter-final slot, whereas Kerry and the Connacht Champions can traipse to August with a total of two wins. This was traditionally - and understandably - perceived as a negative.

But this shifted fifteen years ago. In the early stages of the last decade, when the Kingdom faced the Ulster Coup by those unruly upstarts in Armagh and Tyrone, the fact they had borne the whips and scorns of a few gruelling Ulster jousts stood to them against Kerry, who arrived in Croke Park largely undercooked. It is significant that Kerry's re-assertion of the old order in 2006 came from their senses being sharpened through the qualifiers.

Now, progress in preparation and a greater commitment than ever before has allowed Kerry and Dublin build large, competitive squads, meaning internecine battles for positions have propelled teams to new heights.


Kerry and Dublin have proven that straightforward provincial championship victories have not affected their performance level in August, so now it is up to Tyrone to do so, too.

For now, Tyrone are in an unfamiliar position: they have won an Ulster Championship with absolute ease. Today, they beat Down 2-17 to 0-15 in the Ulster final, following a nine-point win over Donegal, and an eleven-point hammering of Derry.

They have been scintillating at times, attacking-wise, and their defensive structure is arguably the best in the game. Today's Ulster final was only truly competitive for 35 minutes, a time in which Tyrone conceded a solitary scoreable free. That first-half was, however, marked with some errant shooting and poor-decision making: Mattie Donnelly skying a ball wide with Peter Harte unmarked in front of goal the most egregious example. Ater the black card for Kevin McKernan however, Down wilted, at which point Tyrone exploited the expanding space very well to rack up a big score.


There are slight doubts regarding their ability to score enough against one of the other Big Three, anxieties borne out into reality in that curiously lacklustre crescendo against Mayo last year.

But there is the nagging feeling that they will be undercooked in August. In truth, the rest of Ulster have been at their weakest in years. Tyrone's vanquished Ulster opponents are some way off the elite: Donegal are struggling to strike a collective groove post-McGuinness, and while Derry perhaps should have beaten Mayo, the wider context should not be ignored: Derry are a Division Three side, and Mayo did their best to lose the game with a collective nervous breakdown in front of goal during the second-half.

Tyrone's scoring in the Championship has been outstanding: 3-58 across three games. But there is a nagging feeling that they are in a very unfamiliar situation: they are the Ulster champions, but have yet to be fully tested.


See Also: Watch: Ronan O'Neill Twists Knife Into Down With Delicious Lobbed Finish



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