GAA Football

Tyrone will be among the contenders in winter football Championship says Dublin midfielder Brian Fenton

Brian Fenton breaks away from Tyrone's Harry Loughran in the 2018 All-Ireland final. Pic: Seamus Loughran.
Andy Watters

DUBLIN midfielder Brian Fenton says he’s “nervously excited” by the prospect that, on their day, any team can knock the six in-a-row chasing champions off their perch in this year’s knockout Championship.

Tyrone are among the contenders for the Sam Maguire this year, added the Raheny clubman who says that all the Division One teams will fancy their chances when the Championship gets underway next month.

“Tyrone are always contenders,” he said.

“But you’re looking at all of the top eight teams, the Division One team. But what you’re looking at this year are straight, knockout games down in the provincial grounds and that brings with it its own excitement, with or without crowds. Over the last few years we’ve had great games and you could afford to potentially lose one of them and still progress but now you’re looking at it and if you don’t perform, if you don’t bring your best then any team, literally any team, could nab you and you’re gone.

“There’s obviously going to be the top contenders, the bookies’ favourites and all that but it’s so different this year. Straight knockout is something that we’re really going to have to focus on and every game is going to be so important. I’m nervously excited about it.”

Fenton also predicts that football in the late-Autumn/early-winter months will be “more physical" than on hard pitches during the summer. He thinks those factors could play into the hands of Dublin’s rivals.

“We all love summer football but when the Championship gets going now you’ll have to wear gloves and it’s damp, you need studs in and you’ll be slipping more,” he said.

“It’ll probably be a more physical game and that potentially might suit other teams. I remember up in Omagh this year in our last League game (Tyrone won 1-10 to 1-7) and I was avoiding puddles when I was going out onto the pitch. It brings its own challenges, but it will be the same for everybody – we’ll all be dealt the same cards.

“It might change a few things – shot options, kick-outs - and it might change things tactically a bit but hopefully it won’t be too bad.”

Tyrone are expected to have former All-Ireland minor-winning star Conor McKenna back in harness for the Championship. The Eglish native retired from AFL with Essendon recently and is keen to return to county colours but Fenton expects him to find the transition from Aussie Rules back to Gaelic Football challenging.

“I wouldn’t watch the AFL too much but I did see clips of his dummy-solo and stuff like that,” he said.

“I’m aware that he’s coming back and you look at the lads that have come back from that game. It’s so professional and the skills are so specific so to transfer back to Gaelic Football, I assume will be difficult.

“But no doubt Mickey Harte will be extremely excited to get him back, just for his professionalism. I know he’s still very young (24) so we’ll be keeping an eye on him for sure.

“I would hate to be taken from Gaelic Football for a few years and then be brought back and expected to be he same player – that would be difficult. But we’ll see how he gets on and best of luck to him this year.”

A year on from their historic five in-a-row, the Dubs returned to the training field last night to begin preparation for their remaining League games against Meath and Galway.

“We’ve been with the clubs for the last few weeks which has been hugely enjoyable but I’m looking forward to getting back together with the boys,” said Fenton.

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