GAA Football

Tyrone can build on Dublin victory by downing Galway in Omagh

Neil Loughran

Allianz National Football League Division One: Tyrone v Galway (tomorrow, 2pm, Healy Park, live on TG4's YouTube channel)

MICKEY Harte may try and play down the significance of Tyrone's momentous defeat of the Dubs, but there is no doubt his players will run out at Healy Park tomorrow with a serious spring in their step.

How could they not? Before last weekend the Red Hands had to go back to 2013 – Jim Gavin's first year in charge - for their most recent win over Dublin, with All-Ireland final and semi-final defeats in consecutive campaigns only adding to the hurt.

It may count for little if they meet again in the heat of Championship, but a mental block was surely lifted to some degree in Croke Park last Saturday night.

The challenge now is to go out tomorrow and play with the same kind of belief displayed in downing the best team in Ireland. Consistency is what has made the Dubs kings, and that is the level to which Harte and Tyrone aspire.

Last weekend they played with a boldness and determination that unsettled the All-Ireland champions from the start. Dublin were lucky to only trail by two at break.

Significant too was the fact that when Cormac Costello rattled Niall Morgan's net five minutes in, it only added fuel to the Tyrone fire rather than extinguishing it.

This has not always been the case - think of Con O'Callaghan's early solo strike in August 2017, Paul Mannion's first half penalty last September. The Red Hands reacted like rabbits in the headlights on those occasions, but looked a different animal altogether this time around.

Also in last year's final, once Dublin adjusted and managed to quell the influence of Mark Bradley, Tyrone's threat dropped considerably.

With Mattie Donnelly offering a strong, powerful outlet in the forward line and Cathal McShane raiding effectively from deep, their scoring options looked to have increased.

McShane was irrepressible last week, but the impact of Donnelly's transformation from defensive link man to attacking powerhouse cannot be understated.

It wasn't so long ago the Red Hands were being rightly criticised for lacking any kind of cutting edge after some toothless performances during the early stages of this League campaign.

Against Kerry in Killarney on the opening day, just two of Tyrone's seven points came from play as they limped to a four-point defeat.

A win tomorrow would put them in with an outside chance of a potential rematch against the Kingdom in next week's Division One final, and you would expect an entirely different game this time around should that come to pass.

On that dank day in Killarney at the end of January, Tyrone simply couldn't make any inroads in the face of an impressive Kerry rearguard action. They weren't much better against Mayo or Roscommon but, since Donnelly's redeployment, consecutive victories have been recorded against Monaghan, Cavan and Dublin.

However, tomorrow's opponents possess one of the toughest defences in the country – one of that is unlikely to be anywhere near as charitable as the Dubs last week.

Galway are also well-placed for League final spot as they head for Omagh, and come into this game on the back of impressive victories over Connacht rivals Roscommon and Mayo.

Even in the absence of attacking focal point Damien Comer and the players from Corofin's back-to-back All-Ireland winning side, the Tribesmen have shown themselves more than a match for all but Dublin.

Criticism of their defensive style continues to come, and continues to fall on deaf ears out west. Kevin Walsh's side have scored, and conceded, an average of around 13 points per game.

Given the attacking talent at their disposal, even without Comer, that is a low enough return – not that Walsh will care too much as long as they keep winning.

Against the Rossies last week Danny Cummins hit 1-2 while Shane Walsh and Antaine Ó Laoí kicked four points each; Tyrone will be well aware of how deadly they can be on the break, and how difficult they can be to break down at the other end.

The experienced Gareth Bradshaw has come back into the starting side and adds to their defensive solidity, as well as allowing the talented Johnny Heaney to move further forward.

Tyrone, meanwhile, have named the same 15 that was listed last week before Brian Kennedy came in as a late replacement for Connor McAliskey. That could be the case again tomorrow after Kennedy showed no nerves on the big stage.

Although both come in with momentum, it is Tyrone who look to have the stronger wind at their backs.

They can edge home tomorrow, and will hope Ulster rivals Monaghan do them a favour in Mayo to give them another outing in Croke Park next week.

Tyrone: N Morgan; P Hampsey, R McNamee, HP McGeary; T McCann, F Burns, B McDonnell; C McShane, R Donnelly; M Donnelly, N Sludden, C Meyler; C McAliskey, P Harte, K McGeary

Galway: TBA

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