Royal scars won't heal in Healy Park


(RounD 2B: Omagh, Today, 3.0)

WE'LL start with a consoling statement of fact for those traumatised Royals who haven't abandoned all hope - aka, who are heading to Healy Park. Tyrone are not a patch on the team they once were, writes Frank Roche.

Now comes the ominous caveat: their relative fall from grace might not matter a damn here.

It's not that Meath were awful against Westmeath, 13 days ago. For periods of that beguiling first half, they were buzzing with menace and cutting swathes through Westmeath's (admittedly sieve-like) defence. Graham Reilly, Eamon Wallace and Brian McMahon were plundering scores at will.

But not enough: the Meath of old would have stretched 15 points clear, rather than just ten. And even if they didn't, the Meath of old wouldn't have allowed their heads to be scrambled by the first scent of a fightback.

Mick O'Dowd (above) must work with what he has, however, and it's a huge ask to heal those gaping psychological wounds against the backdrop of a tough draw made more daunting by Tyrone's home advantage.

O'Dowd has made two changes, with Conor McHugh replacing the suspended Paddy O'Rourke in goals and Davy Dalton displacing Mickey Burke. Otherwise, his named selection reads like a declaration of faith and/or one more chance to prove the doubters wrong.

ODDS: Tyrone 4/9 Draw 15/2 Meath 5/2 VERDICT: Tyrone