Sunday 25 August 2019

Peter Canavan: 'There are too many psychological and physical consequences for Tyrone to go hell for leather against Dubs'

Star names should be rested with an eye on the following week’s All-Ireland semi-final

Tyrone’s Peter Harte is shown a black card by referee Pádraig O'Sullivan
Tyrone’s Peter Harte is shown a black card by referee Pádraig O'Sullivan
Final push: Tyrone pushed Dublin hard in Omagh last year but are unlikely to show their full hand against Jim Gavin’s side next weekend. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Peter Canavan

On Sky we had a debate about how Tyrone should approach their date with Dublin next weekend.

In usual circumstances, a rematch between last year's All-Ireland finalists at this stage of the competition would whet the appetite, but it's not as straightforward as that. Both teams are qualified, with only top spot in the group at stake.

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Kieran Donaghy reckoned the time was right for Tyrone to go and lay down a marker. That having pushed Dublin hard in Omagh last year they might just be able to tip them over the edge this time around and remind them of what it's like to get their nose bloodied in championship.

If they had the chance to plant even the smallest seed of doubt in Dublin, then why not go all out to do it, he reasoned.

I could see his point of view but the more I've thought about it, I just think it would be wrong to send out your full team and go hell for leather.

A lot of people have pointed to the example of Galway when discussing the pitfalls of being in a position like this, where you are already qualified with a game to play in the Super 8s.

Avoided

Their situation was different last year, however. Had they won that day against Monaghan in Salthill, they would have avoided Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final, which is a considerable carrot. For Tyrone and Dublin, they are only playing for top spot and, depending on how things go in the other group, they'll be playing either Mayo, Donegal or Kerry.

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There's not much between those teams, particularly the latter two. So there's no real advantage to finishing first or second.

So I think Mickey Harte will have learned from the Galway example of last year. When Tyrone beat Cork and secured a spot in the last four, he'll have looked at it like they had three weeks to prepare for an All-Ireland semi-final.

With hindsight, Galway could have done something similar and put all their energies into preparing for that last-four game rather than trying to see off Monaghan. When they lost to the Farney, it meant they had just a week to prepare for football's biggest test - facing the Dubs in Croke Park.

All of a sudden Kevin Walsh had to deal with a defeat, low morale and sore bodies. And while they were in touch with Dublin at half-time, they just couldn't last the pace.

There are too many psychological and physical consequences attached to pushing the boat out for this game. What if Tyrone pick up an injury? What it Petey Harte is shown another black card and misses the All-Ireland semi-final through suspension?

It's precisely the same scenario for Dublin. Last year, Jim Gavin gave a few of his squad members a run-out against Roscommon, knowing they had a semi-final the following weekend. Gavin is in a slightly different situation given the depth of his panel, but the same principle stands. There's too much risk for very little reward.

That's not to say next Sunday's clash in Omagh will be a pointless affair. There may be nothing at stake in terms of the result, but the individuals involved have plenty to play for.

Both managers would know maybe 13 of their starting 15 for the following week, but everything else is up for grabs. So it's a chance for panel members to impress and play themselves into the match-day 26.

Of the five managers still in with a shout of winning Sam Maguire, I'd rather be in Mickey Harte or Jim Gavin's shoes. They have control of their schedule. The rest can't leave anything to chance this weekend. Peter Keane and Kerry will be expected to win in Navan, but Meath will look to finish their season with a flourish. Teams with nothing to lose are dangerous animals.

In Castlebar, Donegal and Mayo will bring each other to the brink. The winners will have just one week to recover for an All-Ireland semi-final against one of last year's finalists. It's far from ideal preparation.

Advantage

For me, that's one of the faults of the Super 8s format. There will be two teams going into All-Ireland semi-finals with a distinct advantage over the other two. For me, the three rounds of Super 8s games should be played on consecutive weekends, and then give teams the fortnight to prepare for their semi-final.

I'd also like to see the Croke Park round scrapped. These are big games, and packed smaller venues make for a better occasion than a Croke Park where you can hear players calling to each other, as was the case for the Tyrone-Cork game last weekend.

Otherwise, I like the concept. There are dead rubbers this year but there'll be years when we go into the final day with everything to play for. You have to take the rough with the smooth.

With a little bit of tweaking, I think the Super 8s will be kept beyond 2020.

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