Cathal McShane: battle-hardened Tyrone can deny Donegal
CATHAL McShane believes battle-hardened Tyrone have a vital edge over Donegal as they prepare to collide at Ballybofey tomorrow.
The Red Hands have negotiated a series of sudden death contests, while the Super 8s eliminator will be the home side's first genuine knock-out test of the season.
Tyrone's Ulster SFC first round defeat by Monaghan sent them careering into the Qualifiers, and it wasn't all plain sailing as they came through must-win clashes with Meath, Carlow, Cavan and Cork.
It was McShane who brought them back from the brink with a stoppage time equaliser to send a heart-stopping clash with the Royals to extra-time at Pairc Tailteann.
“I feel we've had a few games like that, we came through the qualifiers and every game was knock-out. I think we've a winning mentality and that's stood to us so far. Obviously we'll use that on Sunday again to get the right result,” he said.
“We knew the Qualifiers wasn't going to be easy, we had plenty of tough battles and thankfully we got the right scores to come out on top. We've built on that to get where we are today.”
McShane also feels a toe-to-toe meeting with All-Ireland champions Dublin in the last round of the round robin quarter-final series will stand to Tyrone in terms of tempo and confidence.
“The Dublin game will hopefully stand to us, we took a lot of positives from it even though we were beaten by three points.
“The second half, there was a lot of good play that we can look to and there's obviously a lot of room to improve as well. If we can get the right result on Sunday hopefully we can improve again in the semi-final.”
The Owen Roes man is confident the Red Hands can score a rare victory at a venue where Donegal haven't been beaten in 21 games, but it will take an inspired performance from each and every man who faces up to Declan Bonner's side.
“It's going to take a real team effort from every man. We've a great panel at the moment, I've always said that throughout the year. Men on the field and men coming off the bench, if they can make an impact again I can see a positive result on Sunday.”
McShane returns to the scene of his Tyrone debut, a bruising provincial clash in 2015, where as a raw teenager he entered the world of cut and thrust championship football, just weeks after helping his county to an All-Ireland U21 title.
“I made my debut there in the first round of the championship a few years back, that was my first year in the team and I still had a lot of learning to do.
“We'd come out of the U21s and then I made my debut against Donegal. I have more experience now so I'm looking forward to it.”
““It was special, it's always special putting on that Tyrone jersey. I remember when I was part of development squads at U14 it was always a special occasion to put on the Tyrone jersey and it's no different now.
“I've a bit more experience now and I try to use that to perform better. This Sunday will be like any other day, another special occasion and hopefully it'll be the right result.”
Living close to the Donegal border and with his roots firmly planted in the rugged terrain of the north-west county, the 22-year-old corner forward hasn't been able to escape a somewhat partisan narrative in the build-up to one of the most eagerly anticipated sporting occasions of the summer.
“Everyone's looking forward to it. We're just excited for it really. I know from living close to the border that there's a right bit of banter between my relations down in Donegal. I've chatted to a few cousins and they're excited about the game and they're looking forward to it.
“With a few cousins down there, we try to enjoy the banter. I just keep quiet and get on with it. They're great people to be fair.”
“I heard it's sold out and tickets are scarce. It'll be similar to Healy Park last week, the atmosphere's really good as well. That could work against us but we're used to it now, playing in front of large crowds.
“I don't think the big crowd on Sunday will play much of a part, we could use it in our favour if a lot of Tyrone fans are there to support us.”