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Canavan: Donnelly and McShane return a big plus for Tyrone


Red Hands legend Peter Canavan. Photo: Sportsfile

Red Hands legend Peter Canavan. Photo: Sportsfile


Red Hands legend Peter Canavan. Photo: Sportsfile

Few players in the history of the GAA have been as lavishly decorated as Peter Canavan.

Like the rest of us, Canavan has been an interested onlooker as the GAA has continued to steer a challenging, yet practical, course through the coronavirus pandemic to date.

Croke Park chiefs might not always have found themselves flavour of the month on occasions recently, but they have managed to provide guidance to a future pathway.

"There is obviously a deep-seated yearning out there for a return to action and I think the GAA has addressed this matter sensibly," maintains the Red Hands legend.

"While the Ulster Championship is now to be staged in the October-November period, I don't think it will suffer because of this. As a matter of fact, no matter what time of the year the championship is played at, it will always retain its own appeal.

"It's worth bearing in mind that the top pitches are playable all the year round now, spectators can be housed in comfort, and facilities - in general - have improved, thus rendering attendance at matches all the more enjoyable."

With Donegal already firmly focused on making it a hat-trick of provincial titles under Declan Bonner, Canavan - not surprisingly - sees their quarter-final meeting with Tyrone at Ballybofey as a mouth-watering affair.

"There's no doubt about it, this will be a mega game," contends Canavan. "If the match had taken place as originally planned, Tyrone would have been without Mattie Donnelly and Cathal McShane but they'll be back for the rearranged game later in the year.

"I would see this as a massive plus factor for Tyrone. Maybe they were a bit inconsistent in the league earlier in the year, but it is worth remembering that they beat both Dublin and Kerry - and I've no doubt they will continue to take heart from those performances.

"Having said that, Donegal have a good, well-balanced squad who have tasted a bit of success and will obviously be looking for more. They have the massive incentive of going for a third title on the trot - and this will undoubtedly drive them on."

But Canavan is adamant that a rigid time span for the provincial series must be adhered to.

GAA president John Horan has already indicated that should the championships extend into the start of 2021 "this would not be a big problem", but Canavan is keen to see the competition completed before the end of the year.

"I certainly would not be in favour of seeing the All-Ireland semi-finals and final for this year carried over into 2021," insists Canavan.

"I know that the games are going to come thick and fast but remember - had the Ulster Championship gone ahead as scheduled in May, we'd have known the identity of the semi-finalists after a fortnight of action because of the Ulster Council's good fixtures planning.

"I see no reason why a similar time-frame can't be followed later this year. I think it is imperative the Croke Park authorities ensure the All-Ireland is completed in this calendar year. I feel there is a great demand to see this happen - all things being equal, that is.

"There's no doubt the championship will build its own momentum and it's vital this is maintained. If there were to be a break for Christmas, say, it could impact on the All-Ireland series, I feel."

Canavan accepts, though, that the teams with the stronger panels could thrive: "Those managers who've strength in depth at their disposal will be in the running for success."

Irish Independent