McMahon warns of Dubs backlash
HE WENT eye-to-eye with a bird of prey yesterday and Tyrone's Joe McMahon is hoping his side don't end Sunday's Division 1 league final as Dublin's latest piece of football carrion.
Tyrone face the Dubs with the confidence of knowing they are the only side to have beaten them this season.
But McMahon concedes that one-point victory in Croke Park in round five could now come back to haunt them.
"I suppose you do (fear a backlash)," he admitted. "Especially because we played a team without Bernard Brogan who, any day, is worth seven or eight scores to them.
"We did well in that game but Dublin came back at us in the last five to 10 minutes, so I think we're in for a tough challenge.
"Once they get going they're very hard to stop. They have prolific scorers and have men coming through off their shoulders and getting on the scoreboard too, so scores can come from the back line as well as their forwards. They were a lot more dependent on individuals under Pat Gilroy's reign.
"There's a lot of younger boys who've come through the U-21s and minors that have shown well for them and are not afraid to go on and take a score."
McMahon missed Tyrone's semi-final victory over Kildare due to a groin injury and did not play in the local league last weekend, but the versatile Omagh man is still hopeful of being available for selection.
"It's responded well and I did a bit of running on Sunday and hope to get back training this week. It (missing the Kildare game) was more precautionary," he said.
Tyrone will have his clubmate Ronan O'Neill back as he scored 0-3 against Cookstown last weekend, but Peter Harte is out with the hamstring injury he picked up against the Lilies.
Tyrone's excellent form on their return to top-flight status has been one of the surprises of this year's league, considering their uncharacteristically limp capitulation to Kerry in last summer's qualifiers, when they scored just 1-6.
But McMahon, an Ulster Council coach who works in his county's primary schools, says he never gave up hope that they could regroup.
"The motivation was that you should never be that bad again and you knew you could do better and that's not Tyrone. You look at 2003, the tackling and chasing the ball, that's where we want to get back to."
Even though his own preference is at half-forward, McMahon has played in every line for Tyrone and few of their current team more epitomises their manager's 'total football' philosophy.
He certainly lays to rest any notion that Sunday's final might be a phoney war because the Red Hand will be trying to shield their hand ahead of their massive Ulster SFC clash with All-Ireland champions Donegal in a month's time.
"I don't think Mickey thinks like that," McMahon quipped with a grin. "We know Donegal well enough and they know us well enough. I think there is only a fine line between us.
"Mickey won't hold back on Sunday. There's a cup there to be won and you want to do your best to win it."