Having coming within touching distance of an All-Ireland Final in 2015 and after such a clinical and merciless victory over Derry last week, it baffles me how Tyrone aren’t being considered huge contenders for Sam Maguire this year.
Derry put up a spirited fight in Celtic Park but their obvious lack of organisation, technical ability and quite obvious fear of Tyrone were scouted, measured and preyed upon by this Tyrone team.
Mickey Harte’s much-anticipated Tyrone version 2.0 is finally revealing itself to the world, carefully sculpted and precisely-moulded to dominate Ulster Football for the coming years. With Donegal’s golden years looking beyond them and Monaghan and Cavan looking to be their biggest challengers, I wouldn’t be surprised to see such domination.
A cocktail of youth, experience and hunger is a breathe of fresh air for the county, and after years of defeat in Ulster and the All-Ireland series since their last All-Ireland triumph in 2008, Tyrone 2.0 boasts quality in every part of the field.
Morgan and O’Neill are two solid keepers, protected by McNamee at full back while McCrory and McCarron add steel to the full back line. One of the most underrated footballers in the country in Peter Harte is partnered by Tiernan McCann in a half back line that can attack with deadly pace and efficiency.
Midfield is where experience really comes into play. All Star Mattie Donnelly and Colm Cavanagh dictate the tempo of transitions with Cavanagh often operating as a sweeper and Donnelly working as a playmaker in attack.
In the half-forward line, Richie Donnelly and Cathal McShane are two very exciting prospects but it’s the full-forward line that can and will do damage. Ronan O’Neill is growing in confidence every game, scoring two goals against Derry last week, while Sean Cavanagh’s skill and invaluable experience instills confidence into those around him.
Tyrone’s system has always made them hard to beat, and with the quality of players at Harte’s disposal and the surge in confidence within the county, they could see themselves becoming the biggest challenge to Dublin retaining the Sam Maguire in September.
2015 came just a little early for this group as Kerry edged them in a rain-drenched Croke Park. That experience will only benefit them going forward this summer and with Division 1 football attained for 2017, Tyrone are very much the dark horses to triumph in early Autumn.
If Mickey Harte’s side were to win Ulster, their side of the draw would mean they could potentially avoid Dublin and Kerry initially with Mayo looking likely to stand in the way at the semi-final stage. First things first though, Tyrone face Cavan in the Ulster semi-final on Sunday, June 19th.
One thing is definite however, this new-look Tyrone 2.0 will not be beaten easily.
Gavin Quinn, Pundit Arena
The latest episode of The 16th Man GAA Podcast by Pundit Arena is now available to review, with plenty of discussion and debate about this weekend’s busy Championship schedule.