GAA Football

Tyrone v Antrim: Team talk, Key Battle and last Championship meeting

Peter Harte in action against Derry in the Ulster SFC preliminary round
Andy Watters

Team Talk

Antrim: P Nugent; P McCormick, R Johnston, P Gallagher; P McBride, D Lynch, N Delargy; C Duffin, S Beatty; J McAuley, M Fitzpatrick, K Quinn; R Murray, J Smith, O Eastwood

THE Saffrons are minus the likes of Ruairi McCann, the Healy brothers, Kristian and Peter, and Mark Sweeney but manager Lenny Harbinson’s starting line-up includes 14 players who were involved in the final League game this year.

The odd man out is Patrick Nugent who replaces Andrew Hasson in goal. Lamh Dhearg forward Conor Murray is named on the bench and is expected to feature at some stage.

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

MICKEY Harte has swapped a lot of his pieces around the board but Colm Cavanagh for Brian Kennedy is the only change to his starting line-up for this evening’s clash with Antrim.

Hugh Pat McGeary wore 15 against the Oak Leafers, today he’ll wear number two and only goalkeeper Niall Morgan, Ronan McNamee (full-back), Michael McKernan (corner-back) and Niall Sludden (centre half-forward) retain their starting positions from the preliminary round clash.

Key battle

Ricky Johnston (Antrim) v Cathal McShane (Tyrone)

CREGGAN clubman Johnston is big and mobile enough to keep tabs on McShane who is a physical handful with safe hands and good feet who scored seven points (five from play) against Derry.

The long ball is back in vogue and McShane will look for it, demand it, from his colleagues who will need no invitation to pump it in if they see him dominating Johnson.

The task for Johnson is to stick like glue to the Owen Roe’s clubman and he’ll need some help from his teammates to hoover up the breaks and minimise the supply.

Meanwhile, McShane will look to dominate the high ball and if he gets the right service he could be the match-winner for Tyrone.

Tactical Take

Tyrone

A SMALL crowd is expected and Antrim are not going to come flying out of the traps this evening and Tyrone need to forget about the favourites’ tag and play this game with genuine Championship intensity.

The Saffrons will pack their own half of the field but it won’t be surprise if Tyrone kick the ball in early too test their full-back line. The Red Hands will mix that with the tried and tested running game that has served them well in recent years.

Using the width of the field, Tyrone will look to stretch the Antrim defence and then punch holes and send runners into pockets of space in the scoring zone in front of the posts. Peter Harte, Niall Sludden, Tiarnan McCann and Michael Cassidy are just a few of their scoring options.

Defensively, Tyrone will need to pay special attention to Matt Fitzpatrick, Ryan Muray and pacey wing-back Paddy McBride.

Antrim

THIS has to be a fighting rearguard action from Antrim. Winning seems beyond them but the Saffrons still need to come off the pitch with their pride intact by keeping this game alive and that means not over-committing to attack.

With Ricky Johnston on McShane, Paddy Gallagher looks likely to pick up Mattie Donnelly if he plays deep but if he drifts outfield then Patrick McCormick may be used to track him.

Up front Antrim have footballers capable of causing their markers trouble but getting the ball to them is the issue.

If Antrim decide to run the ball out of their own half they will need to move it through the hands with speed or they will find themselves bottled up, turned over and then light at the back. They will look to kick into space, push up to support their forwards and play the game in Tyrone’s half as much as possible.

Peter Harte in action against Derry in the Ulster SFC preliminary round

Man of the Moment

Cathal McShane (Tyrone)

THE flame-haired Owen Roe’s full-forward has rekindled memories of great full-forwards of yesteryear since he began terrorising opposition defences midway through Tyrone’s League programme.

For years the Red Hands had left a man at full-forward almost as a decoy but they have actually provided McShane with the service he needs to be a real threat near the posts.

He finished the League with 1-12 in four games as Tyrone rocketed up the table to finish third behind Mayo and Kerry. Hit the ground running in the Championship too with seven points against Derry, five of them from play.

The long ball is on the verge of becoming chic once again and McShane has been at the forefront of its return to fashion. He could be among the scores again today.   

Last Championship meeting

May 23, 2010 Ulster SFC quarter-final: Antrim 1-13 Tyrone 2-14

ANTRIM struggled to retain possession under pressure and turnovers paved the way to first half goals from midfielder Kevin Hughes and Owen Mulligan as the Red Hands raced into a 2-6 to 0-5 at the break.

Mickey Harte's men got the first three scores of the second half before Antrim, helped by a series Paddy Cunningham frees, clawed their way back into the game. Kevin Niblock’s goal raised hopes of an Antrim comeback with 15 minutes remaining but Tyrone had done enough by then and they held on to win the game by four points.

Last 10 Championship meetings

TYRONE have dominated this fixture over the last 40 years but it is worth noting that the current status quo wasn’t always the case. Out of the first eight meetings of these counties going back to 1926, Antrim lost just one. But out of the last eight they’ve lost all but one including the last five.

May 23, 2010: Antrim 1-13 Tyrone 2-14

July 19, 2009: Antrim 0-15 Tyrone 1-18

June 15, 2003: Antrim 1-9 Tyrone 1-17

June 5, 1988: Antrim 2-4 Tyrone 3-13

June 14, 1987: Antrim 2-5 Tyrone 2-6

June 7, 1987: Antrim 0-9 Tyrone 0-9

May 18, 1980: Antrim 1-7 Tyrone 1-8

May 20, 1979: Antrim 2-5 Tyrone 2-9

May 31, 1964: Antrim 1-9 Tyrone 0-8

June 2, 1963: Antrim 1-9 Tyrone 0-8

Who’s the ref?

Maurice Deegan (Laois)

WHEN you’ve been around as long as Deegan has, you’ll have upset a few people along the way but the three-time All-Ireland final official’s longevity is an indication that he has got a lot more decisions right than he has wrong down the years.

He refereed the Tyrone v Kerry All-Ireland final in 2008 and is a frequent visitor north of the border – took charge of the Donegal v Derry quarter-final last year. His other games included the Monaghan versus Kerry Super 8s clash at Clones and Tyrone’s win against Cork in the Qualifiers.

Vastly experienced, the Laois can be inconsistent in his decision-making and has been criticised for being too quick to dish out cards in the past.

Weather watch?

Cloudy in Armagh this evening with a chance of a shower so bring a brolly just in case.

Betting box

Tyrone 1/80

Antrim 20/1

Draw 40/1

Worth a punt: Peter Harte to score first goal 11/2

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