McMahon predicting tense semi-final

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

McMahon predicting tense semi-final thumbnailFormer Tyrone star Joe McMahon believes the clash with Donegal will be a tight and tense affair.

FORMER Tyrone star Joe McMahon has predicted a tense, low-scoring contest when the Red Hands face Donegal in the Ulster Senior Football Championship semi-final on Sunday week.

He believes it will be similar to last year's provincial final, which Tyrone won with a late flourish and a couple of majestic points from Sean Cavanagh and Peter Harte.

"I can't see it being a high scoring game. The inside forwards will probably be starved of possession, and it will be an opportunity for lads to take long range points, and lads to step up in set pieces, the 45s and free kicks," he said.

"It will be a big test for the inside forward line and for the half forward line and the middle eight.

"With Sean, and the form that he's in, it could be an opportunity for him to step up and maybe play inside and mix it up a bit and bang a bit of ball in on top of him.

"But again, it won't be too far away from Mickey and Rory's tactics, it will be something similar again."

McMahon, who announced his retirement from inter-county football last month, believes the Tyrone attack has been unfairly criticised, and pointed to a generous haul of scores in the first round win over Derry.

"Twenty two points against any team is good scoring. Tyrone will probably look to build from the Derry game and work on a lot of stuff that maybe didn't go so well for them.

"Mickey will have them all prepped, and the boys will be well up for it. It's going to be a huge battle for Tyrone.

"Tyrone are coming off an easy victory against Derry, and there were plenty of positives to take from it, but I don't think they'll get the time and space they were afforded that first day.

"Certainly the boys earned their victory, but Donegal are a different team, they set up, as we know, defensively, and break at pace.

"They're very strong and are well able to take their scores from any place on the pitch, both from play and from set pieces.

"Tyrone will certainly have their work cut out, but they'll draw a lot of confidence from the Ulster final last year.

"There's not much difference in the teams in terms of the way they set up, and the way they were set up that day."

McMahon finally admitted defeat in his battle to overcome injury, and will be an uncomfortable spectator at St Tiernach's Park.

"Sadly it's a game that I'll be missing. It will be difficult to sit through this one, compared to the Derry one, because it was such an easy victory.

"I always loved going to play against Donegal. You knew what you were going to get, it was always a tough, tight hard-hitting game, especially down in Ballybofey, and the environment that it is down there.

"We always loved that challenge, and Donegal were getting the upper hand on us before last year's Ulster final."

It will be a battle of wits on the sideline between Donegal boss Rory Gallagher and Tyrone manager Mickey Harte as they bid for supremacy in a fascinating clash of Ulster's big two.

"I think they will play similar styles. One thing I noticed about Donegal, with their U21s and in the league, is that they suck a lot of their players into their 45, and then they look to dig the ball long and create the open spaces early on for themselves.

"But I think Tyrone will be wise to their tactics and the way they set up.

"In saying that, being wise to it is one thing, and applying yourself to it is another thing. On the day, it will come down to small margins."


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