Sports

Tyrone ready for Galway test.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Tyrone ready for Galway test. thumbnailTyrone will have to overcome Galway without Sean Cavanagh.

Tyrone launch their challenge for the 2018 National Football League title this weekend when they head west to take on Division One newcomers Galway in their opening tie.

It's a tricky assignment for the Red Hands as they face a talented outfit that has been performing well in the pre-season Connacht FBD League.

Galway have made significant strides in recent seasons, and their performances last year suggest that they are ready to challenge Mayo for supremacy once again in the western province.

The Red Hands go into their league opener on the back of another impressive Dr McKenna Cup campaign, and they will take some momentum into their league opener, despite the postponement of the final, which will now be played in mid-February.

Sunday's game was originally scheduled for Pearse Stadium in Salthill, but it has been moved to Tuam due to the Galway hurlers' clash with Antrim on the same day.

Goalkeeper Niall Morgan views this weekend's encounter as a difficult proposition, and one that puts them in a no-win situation, as they are expected to win, and will get scant credit if they do so.

"Going to Galway for the opening game is probably the hardest game that we could go to, because everybody is expecting us to win, and no matter what way be go, we're going to be the losers out of it," he said.

"If we win, people will say we were expected to win, and if we lose, people will say, what's going on here, why are you losing to Galway.

"We're just going to have to put the head down, and get ready for it. we'll have to be well prepared." After rotating the goalkeeping duties with Mickey O'Neill during the Dr McKenna Cup, Morgan is set to start this weekend, but he is grateful for the competition he faces from Clonoe's O'Neill, also an excellent 'keeper.

"You just have to accept it. Obviously everybody wants to play every game, but it's good that both of us are getting plenty of game time," said Morgan.

"I suppose that's the important thing for us as goalkeepers getting to the final, because it gets us the extra game.

"It would probably be more frustrating if we weren't getting to finals, and we were only getting maybe a game and a half each, or whatever way it would have to work.

"It's great competition. The two of us get on really well. It would be different if you were saying I didn't like him, but we do get on really well, and it's good to push each other on, and we're probably better goalkeepers because of it."


The weather scuppered plans to play the Dr McKenna Cup final this Sunday, so Tyrone will have to wait a few weeks for their opportunity to make it seven in a row in the competition.

"It's always nice to be in finals, no matter what the competition. I know some people write off the McKenna Cup, but obviously Tyrone have shown over the years that we do take it seriously," said Morgan.

"It's always nice to be in finals, no matter what the competition. I know some people write off the McKenna Cup, but obviously Tyrone have shown over the years that we do take it seriously." "No matter what trophy is at stake, you want to win.


That's why you play football, and we're more than happy to be in the final."


Morgan is hoping for kinder conditions in Galway after watching on as Tyrone and Fermanagh slogged it out on a heavy and unforgiving pitch in the McKenna Cup semi-final.

"It was a dogfight, and we knew it was going to be a dogfight, with the weather, the conditions, the pitch. it's a slow pitch regardless of when you play on it, but sometimes it's good to come through games like that rather than come through nice clean games. sometimes you have to go into the dogfight and show that you can win them as well."


Tiernan McCann believes the Tyrone squad has the talent to make a big challenge in 2018, with a significant cohort of players maturing and ready to blossom.

"Historically there'd be boys that would be on the panel for a couple of years that don't step up until required or their third or fourth year," he said.

"So I know we have plenty of potential in the squad that a lot of boys outside of Tyrone maybe haven't seen before and I'd be really excited to see them come through this year. With Sean (Cavanagh) being away there's a massive void to fill there. I'd be hoping younger lads come in and step up.

"If you look at the likes of Paudie Hampsey last year, not many outside of Tyrone would have heard of him but he went on to win an All-Star nomination. Hopefully there are players that will step up similarly this year and that's one way to make a difference."


The arrival of former Footballer of the Year Stephen O'Neill as forwards coach is another exciting development, and McCann is certain the treble All-Ireland winner can help transform the team's attacking play.

And he is relishing the opportunity to show that last season's disappointing All-Ireland semi-final performance against Dublin was a one-off.

"Maybe they can peak because they know they're going to get through Leinster and they have to peak for the summer time. Unfortunately, in Ulster we can't do that because we'll get caught, we have Monaghan in the championship.


I don't think we can afford to peak (later) maybe as much as others." Meanwhile, Ulster GAA secretary Brian McAvoy has suggested the Ulster SFC preliminary round should be seeded.

In his report to this weekend's Ulster Convention in Ballybofey, McAvoy believes it's unfair that some teams have found themselves in the preliminary round more than others. Donegal's participation in the preliminary round in 2018 will be their fourth this decade compared to Monaghan, Down and Derry who have been there once in the same period.

Cavan have been there three times and Antrim, Armagh, Fermanagh and Tyrone twice since 2010.

"I had occasion to attend my first All-Ireland Championship draw back in October and one thing that struck me was that Ulster was the only province that does not have some form of 'conditions' attached to their draw," he writes.

There is seeding in both Leinster and Munster, while in Connaught the teams which play London and New York are decided on a rotational basis.


In Leinster the semi-finalists from the previous year are excluded from the First Round draw and in Munster Cork and Kerry cannot meet before the semi-final stage. Ulster therefore is the only truly 'open draw' championship and this has served us well over many years.

"But it also places a great emphasis on 'luck' and some counties have been 'luckier' than others. It has been well documented that for 17 consecutive years Down were drawn away in the First Round of the Ulster Championship, while now Antrim have not been drawn at home since 2010. Given the relatively competitive nature of the Ulster Championship any form of seeding would be impractical and in any event it's not an avenue that I have any desire to pursue. Nor should we be proscriptive about home and away games, though they can lead to a degree of 'unfairness' as highlighted by the examples referred to above.

"There is, however, one area where some level of equilibrium could be contemplated. It is well known that the track record of teams that play in the Preliminary Round of the Ulster Championship is not impressive when it comes to winning the title, though Donegal did win the All-Ireland from that starting position in 2012.

"It is therefore an advantage to avoid the preliminary round. While every Ulster county has played in the Preliminary Round since the millennium, some have been more 'unfortunate' than others.


This year, for example, will see Cavan's seventh appearance since 2000, while Derry have appeared just twice.

"I believe that there is merit in introducing a scenario whereby a team that is drawn to play in the Preliminary Round in a given year should be exempt for a period of time from playing in it again.

"An exemption for two or three years would be reasonable, though there would be potential for extending this to four years if there was the consensus to do so. I certainly believe that this is something that merits further debate."

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