Sunday 26 February 2017

O'Neill back in the mix for Dublin clash

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Stephen O'Neill is in contention to play some role for Tyrone against Dublin this weekend.

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte reported yesterday that O'Neill, their only current All Star, had taken a full part in the team's last two training sessions since the Ulster final.

O'Neill has a heel injury and did not train for the three weeks leading up to the Monaghan game. He lasted just 10 minutes of the Ulster semi-final against Down at the end of June.

Harte admitted it was "encouraging" for the player after completing the training and it augured well for the weekend which throws up a third All-Ireland quarter-final meeting with Dublin in six years -- and a fourth clash between the counties as the 2005 fixture went to a replay.

O'Neill missed Tyrone's entire league programme due to an elbow injury sustained in the McKenna Cup final in January.

Harte has acknowledged the improvement in Dublin through the qualifiers and how Pat Gilroy is succeeding in making them a more difficult team to beat.

"Clearly there is a plan there to make them a harder team to break down rather than a better team to watch and that seems to be working now," said Harte.

Harte also heaped praise on his opposite number, describing his approach as "clever".

"He's been able to play his own team down for these new and younger Dubs. They're taking the heat and the pressure off their team and it seems to be working very well."

Tyrone have the experience of seeing much of the new-look Dublin at first hand in the last round of the league, a game that condemned Tyrone to Division 2 football for the first time since Harte took charge.

"We saw what they were like. They work hard, they are honest and there are a few players who have quality to match the best around.

"We always said that they were the most unfortunate of sides over the last five years, winning the Leinster title but never getting a second chance. This time, they've been in the qualifiers, regrouped and have established themselves as a serious force."

Meanwhile, Jim McGuinness was last night installed as the new manager of the Donegal senior football on a four-year term, with a review to be conducted after two. The former Donegal midfielder was the only applicant for the post vacated by John Joe Doherty last month.

The Naomh Conaill clubman, who was the youngest member of Donegal's All-Ireland winning panel in 1992, ear-marked 45 players in the county who he will run the rule over during the next few months.

Irish Independent

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