Danny Hughes: It's hard to question Tyrone's scoring prowess
TYRONE were by far the most impressive of the Super 8 teams over the first weekend of action. Their running power was very impressive and while Roscommon allowed them too much time and space, it turned out to be the perfect opportunity to prepare for the imminent arrival of Dublin to Healy Park.
You have to suspect that Tyrone’s players and management are still hurting from last season.
The criticism they received after their mauling by Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final last term was massive, yet it could well turn out to have been a watershed moment for them, in the same way as their defeat to Sligo all the way back in 2002 galvanised them for a run to a maiden Sam Maguire in 2003.
It is getting increasingly difficult to make the argument that Tyrone lack the scoring prowess to rival the other main contenders.
Richie Donnelly and Connor McAliskey have found excellent form at just the right time and the Red Hands appear to be able to call on scores from positions all over the field.
The problem arises when better attackers need man-marking.
If you decide to join an attack as a defender, you better make sure the ball goes dead or the opposition’s momentum when counter-attacking will inevitably leave you out of position, on the back foot and possibly leave an attacker free to score.
This is where discipline comes in, and where Tyrone will need to be careful.
In their own backyard, they will need to take risks, but to do so to the extent they were allowed to against Roscommon would, to a certain degree, be asking for trouble.
Tyrone are better prepared for this weekend’s test against Dublin than they were for last season’s semi-final.
For a start, Dublin will be outside of their comfort zone of Croke Park. It’s a long enough bus journey to Omagh, something the Dublin players will be unused to at this time of year.
And while the Dubs are coming off a good result against Donegal, the absence of Paddy McBrearty surely had a bearing on the chances Donegal failed to take.
Dublin played out the result quite comfortably in the end, trying to draw Donegal out of their shell with 10 minutes to go, but a five-point margin is no hammering.
All of these factors will play a part come Saturday evening and I won’t be surprised should Tyrone come away with a win.
A victory is also what Donegal need against Roscommon.
Beating Dublin at Croke Park in the first Super 8 game without McBrearty was always going to be a huge ask.
Roscommon are wounded, almost fatally you could say, after the beating they suffered against the Red Hands.
The only consolation for them is that the game with Donegal is at Dr Hyde Park.
The home support, added to a reduced capacity and tighter surroundings, mean that Donegal’s task is a significant one.
Declan Bonner’s men need to improve, albeit it has to be considered that this Dublin team are somewhat unique.
They retained over 90 per cent of their own kick-outs while winning 40 per cent of Donegal’s.
That has as much to do with Stephen Cluxton’s brilliance as anything else, but Shaun Patton made a number of poor decisions and executions with his restarts which handed Dublin easy scores.
From an outfield player’s point of view, there is nothing more frustrating than when your goalkeeper isn’t doing his job.
Patton’s shot-stopping was superb, and you can clearly see the influence of his soccer background when he spreads himself in one-on-ones.
However, at times he seemed affected by the occasion and the pressure from the crowd.
He will need to learn to zone out from outside influences if Donegal are to improve.
I had assumed that Michael Murphy would spend more time at full-forward under Bonner.
Instead, he has found himself in the same role out the field as he played under Rory Gallagher and in the latter days of the Jim McGuinness era.
On the few occasions that the ball went directly into Dublin’s full-back line on Saturday evening Jamie Brennan scored, while he also missed a glaring opportunity for a goal.
The frustration for me, and I am sure for Donegal supporters, is that Murphy (right) is the best full-forward in the game yet he rarely, if ever, plays there.
If he was stationed at full-forward for longer and given the licence to roam out to the attacking 45 to get on the ball, rather than into his own full-back line, his scoring output would surely improve.
Why not stick him at full-forward for the last 20 minutes at least?
Defenders are tired at this point, the game has opened up and there is a better chance of getting a long diagonal ball in towards the small square.
If Donegal can’t try this tactic in the Super 8s, when can they?
With the structure of the round-robins, a win in the opening game is huge and Monaghan will be buoyed by the manner of their victory over Kildare.
When the game was in the melting pot, they made the right decisions, and of course they had Conor McManus.
Karl O’Connell was also brilliant on the day.
He marked me in an Ulster semi-final at the Athletic Grounds in 2012.
He was like a March hare and it took me until the second half to get to grips with his deep running and pace. Older legs and all that.
Since then, O’Connell has developed into one of the most consistent players in the Monaghan ranks.
His pace and willingness to break through defensive lines creates scoring opportunities both for himself and others who play off his shoulder.
This brand of selflessness is something not often lauded within the game.
What all the best teams are doing effectively now is breaking a tackle before presenting a pass to a team-mate to the side.
Dublin have perfected it and a combination of athleticism, pace and an ability to kick a point off either foot, without breaking stride, sets the best players and teams apart.
Galway are getting to the point that their ability to absorb pressure and counter-attack at pace is making them real contenders, as shown against a much-vaunted Kerry forward
The Tribe made a statement, while we saw that Kerry are not the finished article.
I am glad that I predicted a Galway win, my first success of the year according to John McEntee.
And Monaghan have every chance of effectively ending the Kingdom’s campaign in Clones.
So John, Monaghan to beat Kerry. You heard it here first.