GAA Football

The pundits predict the Ulster SFC final outcome

Tyrone go in search of a second successive Ulster Senior Football Championship title on Sunday - but an in-form Down squad stand in their way. Tyrone captain Sean Cavanagh is pictured celebrating with his team-mates as he lifts the Anglo Celt Cup last July after they defeated Donegal in the 2016 Ulster final at Clones. Picture by Seamus Loughran.

Steven McDonnell (ex-Armagh forward)
For me, Down have to get off to a fast start and get some early scores on the board to give them confidence. They have to bring the same intensity as the last day against Monaghan. Ryan Johnston will be the main link player for them but they will need to rely heavily on Caolan Mooney's pace to break lines. The area where I see the most fascinating battles is the Tyrone half back line and the Down half forward line. Whichever comes out on top here will kick on and win. I suspect it will be Tyrone.

Chris Kerr (Antrim goalkeeper)
Down will certainly believe they can win and have played some great football against Armagh and Monaghan. Call me biased but both goalkeepers are huge players for both and possession from kickouts is key. Down will need to nullify Sludden, Harte and McCann as best they can. And the Johnstons, Donal O’Hare, O’Hanlon will cause Tyrone problems. Would love to see Down win it but can see Tyrone by 4 or 5 points.

Conleith Gilligan (former Derry forward)
Down have been a breath of fresh air but Tyrone will be too strong all over the pitch and down don't may struggle to get 15/16 points needed to win it. Kickouts will be crucial as down will need a lot more possession and in Morgan I think Tyrone have a better chance from restarts. For Down to win this game they will need two goals and McKernan making tackles and possibly scoring a couple of points.

Neil McGee (Donegal full-back)
As well as Down are playing I think Tyrone is a step too far. They are probably playing that system for three years now whereas Down are just starting off with theirs. Down kicked a lot of ball inside in previous games, but if they do that they will play into Tyrone’s hands and they will get picked off. Peter Harte for Tyrone and Ryan Johnston for Down are the key men.

Eoin Bradley (ex-Derry forward)
For Down, Caolan Mooney gives them something different with his pace going forward, he can link defence and attack. Mattie Donnelly is key for Tyrone, their best all-round player – a class player who can score, defend, tackle. He’s been brilliant for them the last few years. I think they game will be won in the Tyrone forward line. Down concede a lot of goal chances and I think Tyrone will open them up. Through the years when Down get a victory under their belt they’re hard to beat but Tyrone have the experience of being there in big games in recent years and that could swing it in their favour by 5 or 6. But I hope not as I think no-one in Ulster would begrudge Down a victory (unless you’re from Tyrone!)

Enda Lynn (Derry captain)
I don’t think Down can win. They are up against a well organised Tyrone team. I think they game will be won by Tyrone’s pace from defence to attack, I don’t think Down have the players to cope with them. Tyrone have too many good players on the sub bench that they can call on to change a game in needs be. The key players for me are Peter Harte, who is a big game player that performs on the big day, and Kevin McKernan for Down. He knows what it takes for his team to win matches when they are underdogs. He has to perform and many others if Down are to have a chance of winning.

Eamon McGee (former Donegal defender)
Kickouts will play a big factor. I thought both keepers were brilliant in the semis. Down did brilliantly to turn the tide with Kieran Hughes after the first ten minutes but Tyrone are so dangerous on the long kickout the last thing Down want is to go man to man. Maybe a zonal or even conceding the short would suit them better. Kevin McKernan looks to be the leader same as Murphy with Donegal - he goes well, Down will go well. Tiernan McCann I expect will get on an awful lot of ball and find the wee pockets to be dangerous. Tyrone are on another level and while down can always spring a performance the fact they caught Monaghan on the hop means Micky Harte and his players will be waiting. I'd expect Tyrone to win comfortably.

Sean Quigley (Fermanagh forward)
Going on Down’s performance against Monaghan, I’d be fearful to write them off. Obviously the midfield battle will be crucial. And I was very impressed with Down in that area last day out. In saying that Tyrone won't take Down lightly. I would expect it to be a tight game and Tyrone to pull away in the last quarter just because of the quality of players that they have - players like Mattie Donnelly who on his day is unmarkable. I think his performance will have a big bearing on the game. Tyrone by 4 or 5.

Paddy Cunningham (former Antrim forward)
Down had a fantastic win against a very strong Monaghan team and will take a lot of belief from that game, I don't think Monaghan expected the level of intensity which Down brought to the game. They were ferocious in the tackle turning over Monaghan in all areas of the pitch at stages and counter attacked well, Tyrone will have learned a lot from that game and will meet Down’s intensity head on. Given their performance against Donegal and experience in Ulster finals, I feel it will stand to them. A good game but Tyrone by 3+ points.

Declan Bonner (Donegal All-Ireland winner and current under-21 manager)
I think it won't come down to any individual brilliance it will come down to game plans and that is why Tyrone will win out. The purists would love to see Down win Ulster but the reality is that Tyrone will not allow the space that Harrison, McKernan and co had against Monaghan. Instead Tyrone will suffocate any Down threat and hit them on the counter attack, and win by 5 points or more.

Kevin McGuckin (former Derry captain)
It is not the final anyone had predicted! It's been a great Championship so far and it would be great if the final produces some more excitement for the neutrals. Down were great against Monaghan - they really attacked the game with pace, aggression and a great show of belief in themselves. They deserve credit for digging deep and turning around a season that had looked bleak a number of months ago! On the other hand Tyrone were just awesome against Donegal. They blew them away. Their scoring was first rate, they were organised all over the field and they just controlled the game with a system that suits their attaching from deep. Tyrone are back and Mickey Harte has reinvented them once again with a new flock of top quality players. The game will hinge on whether down can disrupt Tyrone as they done with Monaghan? There is no doubt that they will throw everything at this game - it's an Ulster final! And it would be great to see them getting a result, but it could be a step too far.

Ryan McCluskey (Fermanagh defender)
I’m expecting a very open game of football and a high-scoring encounter with Tyrone probably shading it through their experience and their bench. Down’s decision on what they do on Tyrone’s kickouts will be a key factor in how the game materialises. With Down going long for theirs, will Sean Cavanagh return to the middle? I’d imagine Harrison will be tightly marked by Cathal McCarron and Colm Cavanagh will most likely cover him as Down’s main scoring threat.


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