Saturday 24 August 2019

Harte will relish how championship landscape is panning out - McGinley

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte. Photo: Sportsfile
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte. Photo: Sportsfile

Declan Bogue

If anyone wanted an insight into the bloody-mindedness that drove Tyrone to the All-Ireland final last year after that opening-day malfunction against Monaghan, they could find it with Enda McGinley's contribution early on in the week on radio.

"With all due respect to everybody within the draw, Mickey Harte will always be thinking about a chance to win the All-Ireland title," said McGinley.

"Looking at the way the draw has worked out, playing Cavan in the next round, a team that Tyrone will give due respect to but wouldn't really fear, that throws them into a 'Super 8s' group with, yes, Dublin, but then Roscommon and Cork or Laois and, well, Tyrone if they've taken care of Cavan.

"From a Tyrone point of view, that would look like a brilliant ticket to get to an All-Ireland semi-final where you would be playing either Kerry or Donegal and again, they are not Dublin... The way the draw has worked out for Tyrone, I think Mickey Harte quietly will be thinking he is going to get another crack on the biggest stage of all this year," continued McGinley.

In so many ways, the draw is ideal for Tyrone. They have a chance now to go after a vulnerable Cavan side which has just lost an Ulster final.

A safe passage through the Super 8s is negotiable. They could conceivably harvest enough points from the first two games to render a final group game against Dublin a dead-rubber.

Then, they would hope for Donegal to come through. They will nurse a grudge from their semi-final surrender. It creates the exact same narrative applied to last year's first-round exit to Monaghan; and let us remind you Tyrone nipped Monaghan in the All-Ireland semi. They are dangerous when they have a cause. The problem is, they have no such cause with Cavan.

Thirty-six years ago, Cavan defeated Tyrone in the 1983 Ulster Championship.

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They have met eight times since in the championship. In 2005 and 2016, Cavan brought them to a replay before being buried under an avalanche of goals in the replay.

Last year in a Round 3 qualifier between the two in Brewster Park, Tyrone maintained their flawless record against Cavan.

McGinley was on the Tyrone squad that beat Cavan in the 2002 National League final but a knee injury kept him out of that game. The first time he played them was the 2005 Ulster semi-final, a game that Tyrone drew.

"I managed to get James Reilly an All-Star nomination that year. I had three one-on-ones with him and he saved every one of them," recalls McGinley.

The draw was Tyrone 0-10 to Cavan 1-7. Seven days later they did it again - Tyrone 3-19 to Cavan 0-7.

"That Tyrone team had a personality that whenever we weren't quite on the edge or fired up for an opposition, we were a very average side and could nearly get caught at times," explained McGinley. "Whenever we clicked into gear, we could absolutely destroy teams. The drawn game against Cavan was one of those days when we were a bit complacent."

Stephen King made his debut with Cavan in the late '70s.

He was still there in 1998 but wins against Tyrone were like hen's teeth when he was coming up against Plunkett Donaghy, with Art McRory on the Tyrone sideline.

"When we were playing the Railway Cup, it was always Big Art along with Brian McEniff. You could just pick out with Big Art, how astute he was," smiles King.

"He had man-marking jobs, putting a guy in front of a good forward. It wasn't a sweeper system, but just watching where the serious threats were.

"They were more tactical than most. Art was a very tactical man. I always loved the way he talked about football."

After a few years of trying to tease out wins, Cavan have become an entertaining - and crucially - a winning side that is lifting Cavan's hopes, maintains King.

"We scored 2-16 against Donegal and 2-16 would win a lot of matches. 0-23 against Armagh the week before, 0-17 in the first match. Those scorers are winning scores.

"From a Cavan point of view, it is a breath of fresh air. We had been so negative there for years so it has been a breath of fresh air."

Will it be enough? This summer, Tyrone have beaten two Division 4 teams and one Division 3 side and Kildare who won three games from seven in Division 2.

This is only the second time they have come up against a serious team in this year's championship.

Thirty-six years seems such a long time.

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