Clones showdown for Ulster's big two

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Clones showdown for Ulster's big two thumbnailThe Tyrone senior team pictured before the Ulster Senior Football Championship quarter-final win over Derry at Celtic Park. They take on Donegal in the semi-final at Clones this Sunday.

ULSTER'S big two will clash head-on in Sunday's provincial semi-final, and the eyes of the GAA world will be fixed on Clones as the Championship prepares to take off.

It's a repeat of last year's final, which the Red Hands won to end a string of defeats to their north-west neighbours, and another thunderous encounter is guaranteed this weekend.

Donegal's new-look team takes on a Tyrone side still under pressure to answer questions over its attacking potency, so an intriguing contest is set to unfold.

Rory Gallagher's side came out on top with they met in the National League at Ballybofey, but that result will have no bearing on this tumultuous contest.

A huge crowd is expected at St Tiernach's Park to witness a tactical battle of wits which could be based upon largely defensive strategies, bit will be no less intriguing.

Defender Aidan McCrory believes Tyrone have the attacking potency to get the better of their great rivals once again, despite concerns over the scoring return of the forward division.

"We have created chances. We know ourselves that we maybe have had chances that we didn't take," he said.

"You would prefer to have goals, but you can't be going for goals the whole time.

"Sometimes it just doesn't work out for you. If you win the game with points you'll be happy enough as well."

Donegal were emphatic winners when the sides met in the National League earlier this year, but the Errigal Ciaran man feels that difficult evening at Ballybofey will have no bearing on Sunday's contest.

"We'll try to learn from it as best as we can. They were the better team on the night," he said.

"We have no complaints about anything that happened. Donegal beat us and beat us well.

"But we have another game to play now, so we can't dwell on that."

Experienced defenders Justin McMahon and Cathal McCarron are available again after missing the quarter-final win over Derry due to injury, but Ronan McNabb has been ruled out by a damaged ankle.

"If you look through the league, we probably had different boys missing at different stages. I didn't play as few of the games, Justy didn't play a few of the games, Ronan McNabb would have missed a few games, so boys have filled in there.

"We have a couple of really good boys there that maybe haven't had a lot of game time, that were very unlucky to not get that game time.

"This is an opportunity for them. You're sorry for the boys that are missing out, but at the same time, everyone there is there because they're fit for it, and that's what they want to be playing, so it's an opportunity for someone to step up to it."

Numbers on the backs will mean nothing at St Tiernach's Park, with players expected to fulfil many roles, and display their versatility, and it will be no surprise if corner back McCrory pops up in an advanced position.

"We're always given licence by Mickey, whenever we have the ball, our aim is to score, and we do what we have to do to try and get that.

"Sometimes there's space there for whoever gets up the pitch and gets on the ball. There's nothing really instructed about it, it's just the way that the game flow happens.

"I'd be happy enough to carry it up the pitch and lay it off for someone else to tap it into the back of the net."

McCrory expects another close encounter, similar to last year's Ulster final, when the sides were deadlocked until late on, when Tyrone pulled away with winning scores from Sean Cavanagh and Peter Harte.

"Whenever you're playing you sometimes don't realise what time has gone by.

I think it will be close for much of the game, I think there won't be much in it.

"At times it could be like last year, but both teams have new players playing, new things happening, and I think they'll be trying to adapt to those new players and see how things go."

The build-up has been solid and well structured, and the Red Hands will be ready to roar once they hit the turf on Sunday afternoon.

"We waited so long for the Derry game from the end of the league. It had been six or seven weeks, and we had been playing club football.

"Now we're back in the mood of playing county games every few weeks, and that smaller gap definitely helps you get back in tune with what you're used to doing.

"Donegal have been one of the better teams in the country for the last number of years.

"But we're just worrying more about what we can improve on from the last day. We had what was a good enough win, but at the same time it's not going to be good enough when we come up against Donegal."


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