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Dubs in Tyrone's sights

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Tyrone manager Mickey Harte. Photo: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte. Photo: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

Tyrone, and Dublin players scuffle on the side line during the second half. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Tyrone, and Dublin players scuffle on the side line during the second half. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

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Tyrone manager Mickey Harte. Photo: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

"IT was like a cartoon, like a full scale brawl going up and down the sideline," laughs Ryan McMenamin now, from the safe vantage point of eight years on from the notorious 'Battle of Omagh' of which he was, believe it or not, a participant.

"It took in everybody. Ah, it probably did get out of hand at one stage."

If the manic scenes were more representative of a long-gone time, the screechy aftermath frequently broke the borders of hysteria.

"To me, it was one of them ... it was a surreal game," McMenamin, who – along with Conor Gormley – always happily played the pantomime villain for Dublin supporters, adds.

"Dublin were adamant that they were going to make a point that year. We were adamant that they weren't going to make a point.

"You get those type of incidents when a rivalry gets a bit vicious. And it had done by then."

"But after the games, no matter whether there was a fight or there was a bit of baitin', players shook hands. And any of the trips that I was on when I would have met Dublin players, they were always dead on. You could always chat to them.

"But Dublin are probably at the place now where we were then. They're the number one team and they want to stay there. This year, Tyrone would have more of an eye at the moment on Dublin than Dublin would on Tyrone."

And, for posterity, Dublin have already been to Omagh since that bizarre afternoon, in 2010 when Bernard Brogan kicked eight points and Dublin won by six in a match memorable only for a changing slant on the rivalry, one carried into that summer and more significantly from Dublin's point of view, 2011.

McMenamin played in both and again in 2012 but things had tapered off for Tyrone and he got the feeling time was getting on and the faces around him, less inclined to queue behind him.

EXPRESS

"It's probably like everything," 'Ricey' suggests. "When you're there, you probably thought you could stay on. But in a way, it did take for a few of us to go to let a few of them boys express themselves.

"They're young and they're ambitious. And for us, your time does come to an end. But you do need experience though. Conor Gormley and Martin Penrose coming in last week in Cork really helped. And big Seán (Cavanagh) was the pick of them all last year."

He watched Tomás Ó Sé help destroy Tyrone in Omagh last year in the league and sent him a text about how bad he had felt watching a man born in the same year still doing his thing as good as ever.

"Good," came the reply.

"They're of the age now – 24, 25 – where it's about time that they found their feet now at county football, where they are going to have to stand up and deliver."

Clearly, Kyle Coney is one such player currently suggesting that deliverance is nigh.

"People don't realise how serious his last injury was," McMenamin insists. "It was a groin and it was career-threatening.

"He's come back a better player. He's a confident guy anyway. That does tell you now that he appreciates the football a bit more now. I've marked him in club football and a bit in county training and I'm telling you, on his day, you won't see a better left foot. But it's taken Kyle longer than he would have liked to come."

INFLUENCE

Niall Morgan, also, is back to the sort of levels of influence as a stopper/sweeper/free-kick taker he displayed prior to the crippling twin blows of last summer when first, he endured a 'mare in Ballybofey and secondly, ruptured his ACL.

Unsurprisingly, McMenamin sees a comparison with someone else in the news this week.

"Mickey looked and saw what Cluxton brought to the Dublin team," he acknowledges. "What Stephen does is fantastic. Niall is getting there. I watched Stephen last year against Cork and his kickouts were immense. I don't even think he got the credit he deserved.

"But Niall gives Tyrone an extra option. Those long range frees, it gives Tyrone a good chance of a score now. Before, defenders might foul when you're 50 or 55 metres out from goal but you can't anymore. He'll punish you nine times out of 10.

"One thing about Niall, he'll not lack belief. And if you're going to play inter-county football, you need that. He has matured into a very good goalkeeper. He knows when you play it short too.

"On Sunday, when Cork started dominating midfield, he hit two or three short and it kind of saved the game for Tyrone. If you look at last year (in the All-Ireland semi-final) Mayo knew what to do because he was kicking them all into the middle of the field but he has got more options now.

ATTACK

"Like, Dublin," he adds, considering this Sunday, "they still get their half-forward line behind the ball when they defend.

"But when they attack, they have six players in front.

"And it's great. These things come in cycles and you can see that there's a bit of Dublin in the way Tyrone are playing now as well."

As big a compliment as Jim Gavin's likely to get this week.


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