THE ARSENAL OF attacking options available to new Tyrone managers Fergal Logan and Brian Dooher is mouthwatering prospect.
2019 Footballer of the Year nominee Cathal McShane will return from a serious ankle problem that derailed his 2020 season. In his absence, former AFL man Conor McKenna became Tyrone’s leading forward after the GAA’s restart, re-adapting to the sport quicker than anyone expected.
McKenna and McShane have the potential to form a lethal partnership on the inside line. Both are physically impressive athletes, with the skill and shooting ability to match.
Around them, a host of talented forwards will battle it out for the four remaining spots in attack.
Sharpshooters Lee Brennan and Connor McAliskey are back in the squad, with Dungannon pair Paul Donaghy and Mark McKearney called up for the first time. Darren McCurry enjoyed his best year in the Tyrone jersey last season, while Niall Sludden, Mark Bradley and Ronan O’Neill are also involved.
Youngster Darragh Canavan could well be set for a break-out year, having spent the best part of two years in the senior set-up.
And that’s before you factor in Mattie Donnelly and Peter Harte, who’ve spent a good deal of recent seasons in the Red Hand attack but may now be employed further out the field.
Asked if Tyrone have the best forward division in the country outside of six-in-a-row champions Dublin, recently retired midfielder Colm Cavanagh didn’t hesitate.
“I’ve no doubt about that to be totally truthful,” the 33-year-old said. “The guys like Connor McAliskey coming back in, Paul Donaghy and whatnot. The guys who are already there – Conor McKenna, Cathal McShane, Darren McCurry, Mark Bradley, I could rhyme a list off there.”
“I wouldn’t like to be one trying to get into that full-forward line,” he said of the options in Tyrone.
“The thing with them boys is they’re all out and out forwards. The likes of Mattie will probably maybe have to move back to the middle, because he can play out the field. Tyrone are going to be blessed with an abundance of forwards this year.
Colm Cavanagh was speaking at the Electric Ireland GAA Minor Special Recognition Awards Announcement.
Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
“It’s probably the biggest part of Fergal and Brian’s job is trying to harness that in the right way. Get the right men in on the right days and get them all singing and dancing because each one of them can change a game, can kick a score from anywhere and could really punish teams in terms of going at them.
“If they can get that right along with shoring up at the back a wee bit and be strong around the middle, I think they’ll take a bit of beating.”
It’s quite the statement giving collection of attackers available to Kerry (David Clifford, Sean O’Shea, Paul Geaney, Stephen O’Brien, Tony Brosnan, Killian Spillane, Dara Moynihan, James O’Donoghue and Tommy Walsh) and Donegal (Michael Murphy, Jamie Brennan, Paddy McBrearty, Peadar Mogan, Niall O’Donnell, Odhran MacNiallais, Michael Langan, Ciaran Thompson, Eoin McHugh and Oisin Gallen).
For years, Red Hand supporters hankered back to the days when their front six featured household names like Canavan, O’Neill, Mulligan, Dooher, McGuigan. Now it appears, they have the weapons to compete for the big prize once again.
For the entirety of his 13-year senior career with Tyrone, Cavanagh operated under the watchful eye of Mickey Harte.
He feels the new voices of Logan and Dooher will add a freshness to the set-up and their management style will promote a more ‘player-led’ approach.
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“It’s very hard to put this in words but yeah, Mickey did have a style of top down [leadership]. If you think of a business where he was trying to bring you to do things in his way and what he thinks is best,” he said.
“Probably since when Mattie came in as captain, that he did try to shift it a wee bit in terms of trying to get a lot more players involved and feedback.
“Mattie seen it that if you get everybody to buy in through a process of being player-led then I think the team as such is more bought into what we’re trying to do, what we’re trying to achieve.
New Tyrone joint-manager Brian Dooher.
Source: PRESSEYE/Russell Pritchard/INPHO
“I know that wasn’t the case for a lot of years with Tyrone where it was sort of ‘this is what we’re doing, this is the way we’re doing it’ whether it was preparation or on field stuff. Whatever way we were preparing on the pitch, it was coming from the top. I still think you need that to a certain degree.
“Of course there has to be that respect and that place where there is a management team there but I think guys get bought into things a lot better if they feel a lot more involved.
“It’s probably the changing dynamic of youth and that generation. I do think the guys that have come in, just from speaking back and forward with players, that will be the case and there will be a lot more player focus.
“Don’t get me wrong, they’ll work harder probably than they’ve ever worked before but they’ll feel like they want to do it more, and that can ultimately only, in my mind, be positive for the group.”
The Moy native also feels Tyrone need to develop “that club mentality in a county jersey” that has been lacking in recent years.
” I personally don’t think that was there the last number of years with Tyrone. I think that was probably one of the things that was missing.
“You look at the Dublin lads, from my side anyway, they nearly all seem best friends and all seem like they get on, and they all seem like they really go to the well and you only have to look at their intensity and work-rate. You can see it. They will back each other up to the hilt. That starts off the pitch.
“Whenever people are genuinely together and things – if that’s not there, you won’t win anything. Somewhere on the pitch at some point, you won’t back that man up or you won’t make that actual run or you won’t make that tackle and I do genuinely believe Tyrone haven’t had that.
“With all the talent we’ve had over the years, I feel that wee extra bit that is there, that sort of bond and that gel holding together a team, wasn’t there. So I think this new approach will bridge that gap and I think they guys will really buy into that. Who knows whether it will bring success but it’s a positive step forward.”
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