Down date for favourites Tyrone

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Down date for favourites Tyrone thumbnailSean Cavanagh lifts the Anglo-Celt Cup in 2016.

TYRONE are primed to deliver another big performance at Clones as they defend their title in Sunday's Ulster Football Championship final against surprise packets Down.

Confidence is soaring in the camp following the demolition of Donegal in the semi-final. But they know they must hit top form if they are to get the better of the Mourne men.

It promises to be a compelling contest between two teams with high hopes of a big championship run in 2017, and both will want to take the direct route to Croke Park.

Tyrone go in as favourites, principally due to the quality of their performance against Donegal, but Down have impressed in their games against Armagh and Monaghan, and they will feel they can take another big scalp.

"It has always been a battle between us and them, because they have a strong tradition of playing quality football and the evidence is there," said Tyrone manager Mickey Harte.

He was highly impressed by the manner in which they fearlessly took on and defeated a Monaghan team that had crushed them in last year's championship.

"You can see a reason why people might suggest that Monaghan could have been complacent.

"If you beat somebody by 2-20 to nine points 12 months ago, you might understand how people might think there should only be one outcome in that game.

"But on the day, Down came along with a different attitude and played to back up that attitude, and performed very well.

"And it just shows you that you can turn the tide from very far out in your favour if you go about it in the right attitude and apply yourselves the way you can do.

"It would be wrong to take away the credit from Down for performing so well, but you'd have to say as well that again, on that particular night, Monaghan would know that they could play better too."


Tyrone will go into the decider with high levels of confidence, thanks to their resounding semi-final win over Donegal.

It was one of the finest displays from a Red Hand team for a number of seasons, and their systematic dismantling of the Tir Chonail defence put a new perspective on the race for the Sam Maguire Cup.

"I felt that we played as well as we have played in a long, long time, and Donegal under-performed," said Harte.

"So when you put those two things together, that's what really gave us the comfortable win that we had. It doesn't often happen that way, that one team is in a very good place, and excelling actually, and the other one not playing up to the standard that they normally can.

"It doesn't happen very often against top team. It happened this time, and we were the ones to benefit from that.

"I do believe it was a very, very good performance. We did a lot of things very well I do believe it was a very, very good performance. We did a lot of things very well, but again, that purple patch before half-time it's not often that we get that number of chances and we put them all away.

"You're generally missing one out of every two, or two out of three. We didn't miss any at that particular time, and that was so critical in that outcome.

"In many ways it was a mirror image of what happened to us in Ballybofey, it was  four all after 22 minutes in Ballybofey, and they hit off five points without reply, really cracking scores, and we couldn't get back from that.

"Everything we touched turned to gold in that last ten, fifteen minutes before half-time, and I'm happy that it did, because it served us well.

"It was a very good performance, but we made mistakes as well, and we were opened up for a number of goal chances in that game.

"We can be better at some aspects of our play, and that is the six million dollar challenge for us now, is to get to that standard at least, plus more, for the next day, and we have to deal with that."


Tyrone have scored just one goal in their two championship games to date, but the manager is not overly concerned by a problem that had dogged his side for some time.

"People get alarmed about things that I don't necessarily get alarmed about," he said.

"I would be alarmed if we weren't creating goal chances. The worst thing of all is, if you're not creating them, you definitely won't score them.

"If you're creating them, I believe, one day, you will score them, and if you score enough points anyway, then you don't need a lot of goals.

"To me, I don't see it as a problem. We're creating opportunities, and that they're not going in in the abundance that some people think that they should, I'm not concerned."

This weekend they face a different type of challenge against a county that thrives on confidence and boasts a proud tradition of championship success.

"They have proven that now, by having two wins behind them, and tradition and history would say that when Down teams get on a roll, they get better every time.

"So if Down get better, as they generally do, then we know what we have to deal with in the final.

"The surprise element is gone. If people are still going to be surprised by the quality of Down, then they haven't been looking anywhere this last couple of games.

"Every game is a new game, every day is a new day. Sometimes it's very small things that turn the course of a game.

"I have seen this many, many times. It may look innocuous enough, somebody mishandled a ball or passed the ball to the wrong person at the wrong time, and it just   the script, that the other team went up and got a goal. From there on, the game takes on a new complexion.

"This is what you must prepare for in a game of this nature, that it can take very little to change what's supposed to happen into what you don't want to happen.

"So that's maybe where experience comes in, that you have to think about everything and anything that can happen, and do your best to be prepared for it."


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