Thursday 18 January 2018

McMahon wary of Meath's new style

It's one of the most bitter rivalries in the GAA, even though Tyrone have taken on Meath just twice in championship combat.

The Royals upset the form book on both occasions, romping to a big All-Ireland semi-final win in 1996, and overcoming the Ulster men once again in a 2007 quarter-final.

It's the '96 clash, when Meath were accused of bullying their bloodied opponents into submission, that still rankles with Tyrone fans.

Brian Dooher and Ciaran McBride suffered nasty head wounds, while a late tackle on Peter Canavan after 10 minutes meant the legendary attacker's influence on the game was drastically reduced as he struggled with an ankle injury.

Whispers of scores to settle have mingled with predictions of another attritional battle, but Joe McMahon believes the past will be forgotten once the players from both sides step onto the Croke Park turf for Saturday's qualifier.

"Maybe it will be a factor among the older generation, but I don't think it will play on the minds too much of any of these lads," he said. "Going back to Brian Dooher and Dinkie McBride, with the bandages on, hopefully it doesn't come down to that."

McMahon was a member of the team that lost to a Graham Geraghty-inspired Meath in 2007 and while the game remains fresh in the minds of a new generation of fans and players, the Omagh man doubts if it will have any significance.

"In 2007, we were beaten, but this is a new team. Fresh players have come in, maybe they will remember having gone to the game and watching it.

"There's new players have come in as well for Meath and maybe they're playing a different style of football, carrying the ball, not just launching the ball in as they have done in the past. It's something we'll have to look at this week and work on."

But Tyrone's utility man does expect that this weekend's game will be the toughest to date in a qualifier series that has seen Mickey Harte's side overcome Offaly, Roscommon and Kildare.

He watched Meath trouble All-Ireland favourites Dublin with a strong running game in the Leinster final and warned that Tyrone must be highly competitive for the entire 70 minutes.

"We know what Meath bring and what they offer and against Dublin they put up a big challenge. We had a good start to the second half last week (against Roscommon), but not this week (against Kildare). We just need to get that consistency."

However, he believes a return to Croke Park could be the key which opens the door to an extended summer of action for the Red Hands.

"That's where you want to be, that's where you want to be playing your football at this time of year.

TARGETS

"But there comes a time when you want to push on and do something. We wanted to do well in the league and we did that, reaching the final, and we are where we are now because we set our targets and obviously we want to kick on to September, but whether that will happen, time will tell.

"Donegal was the target at the start of the year, but now we're on the scenic route. We have built up a bit of momentum now. These game will set the younger boys up, and show them what is expected of them to win games."

Irish Independent

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