GAA Football

Tyrone trim their pitch for Dublin clash

Ground staff getting Healy Park ready for Saturday's game against Dublin. Picture by Ann McManus

TYRONE have come up with a novel idea to try and stem the Dublin attack - by narrowing the width of the pitch at Healy Park.

The Red Hands are understood to have chopped a few metres off the pitch on either side as they prepare for the visit of the All-Ireland champions on Saturday night.

At its usual width, the Healy Park surface is 86 metres wide - the same as Croke Park, where Dublin have played their home games in recent years.

That width has been used to their advantage in recent seasons, with Jim Gavin’s side taking advantage to stretch opposition defences by keeping attackers tight to the sidelines in a bid to create space.

They used it to great effect in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final, when they had a surprisingly comfortable 12-point win over the Red Hands.

The minimum width for a playing surface according to the GAA’s rulebook is 80 metres, while the maximum is 90 metres.

Changing the pitch dimensions is Tyrone’s prerogative as the home team, and while it’s a relatively uncommon tactic in the GAA, it has been employed by various soccer teams in recent years.

It’s not totally alien to the GAA though. Back in 2010, the Irish International Rules team had the sideline brought in by five metres on each side for their clash with Australia at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. In the end, the condensed pitch appeared to suit the Australians more than Anthony Tohill’s side as the visitors ran out seven-point winners.

Martin McCarron helping out at Healy Park, Omagh ahead of Saturday's big game. Picture by Ann McManus

Irish selector Kevin O’Brien’s explanation at the time for the decision may not be too far away from Tyrone’s rationale.

"The advantage of limiting the space works both ways," said O'Brien. "If it lessens space for the Australians, it makes tackles for them easier to execute.”

Red Hand boss Mickey Harte has yet to name his side for the Dublin match this weekend, but Cathal McCarron will definitely miss out.

The Dromore defender was stretchered off early in last week’s win over Roscommon and is facing a spell on the sidelines. Lee Brennan is set to return to the squad though after missing the Qualifier campaign and the first Super 8 match while Colm Cavanagh should also be fit to start after picking up a knock last Saturday.

Meanwhile, Monaghan are set to announce their team at around 9pm tonight ahead of their massive clash with Kerry at St Tiernach’s Park.

The Farney county have no major injury concerns while Kieran Hughes could be in line for a starting spot after coming off the bench in the victories over Laois and Kildare as he continues his recovery from hip and hamstring problems.

Roscommon manager Kevin McStay has announced his starting team for their clash with Donegal at Dr Hyde Park on Saturday.

He has made two changes to the side that lost heavily to Tyrone last weekend with Seán McDermott coming into the full-back line in place of Niall Daly while Brian Stack has been added to the forward line in place of Donie Smith.

Roscommon: C Lavin; D Murray, N McInerney, S McDermott; J McManus, F Cregg, C Devaney; T O’Rourke, C Compton; C Murtagh, N Kilroy, E Smith; D Murtagh, B Stack, C Cregg

Read more: Omagh buzzing ahead of Tyrone v Dublin championship showdown

Healy Park, Omagh. Picture by Ann McManus

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