Stop Canavan and McCurry and you’re halfway to beating Tyrone... But it’s easier said than done

Tyrone need to get back to winning ways as Clare visit Healy Park

Tyrone's Darren McCurry kicks past Kerry's Shane Enright in Croke Park. Picture by Hugh Russell
Darren McCurry has contributed 29 points to Tyrone's cause this year. Picture by Hugh Russell
All-Ireland SFC Group 3, round two
Tyrone v Clare (Sunday, Healy Park, 1.30pm)

IF Clare can find a way to shackle Darragh Canavan and Darren McCurry on Sunday they would be halfway to causing a seismic shock in Group 3.

That’s hardly a revelation of course, the potency of Tyrone’s prolific attacking duo is well known but blunting Canavan’s artistry and McCurry jinking brilliance is easier said than done. Between them Canavan (2-40) and McCurry (0-29) have scored a shade under half (47.88 per cent to be exact) of Tyrone’s total of 4-148 over their 10 League and Championship games this season and one or other of them missed three of those games.

However, as fast as the forwards score at one end, Tyrone – despite the best efforts of Niall Morgan – are leaking scores even faster at the other. Tyrone finished the National League with a minus 22 scoring difference (conceding 33 points in their final fixture against Dublin played a major part in that) and the defensive issues continued into the Championship with 3-16 conceded against Cavan and 0-18 against Donegal.

Both of those games went to extra-time but Donegal didn’t need an additional 20 minutes to register 0-21 more last weekend.

Darragh Canavan celebrates his brilliant goal against Monaghan at Healy Park. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
Darragh Canavan celebrates a goal against Monaghan at Healy Park. Picture Margaret McLaughlin

So the issues are obvious but finding a solution has been less so for the Tyrone management.

The Red Hands don’t lack for effort or energy and Brian Kennedy’s tackle to stop Caolan McGonagle in his tracks early in proceedings in Ballybofey last weekend showed how they were up for that battle.

There was only a point in it at the break but as the light faded, so did Tyrone and, although they clung on gamely, the Ulster champions moved through the gears, pulled away and won by seven at their MacCumhail Park fortress.

With a Division Three team (Clare) and Division Two’s Cork to come, Tyrone could take some comfort that they’d got the hard away game out of the way and they should be confident of getting back to winning ways against the Banner county on home soil on Sunday.

That’s not writing off the visitors’ chances. Clare reached back-to-back Munster finals this year for the first time since 1936-’37 although, to put that achievement in context, they had only to beat Waterford to do so.

Beating Cork in last year’s Munster Championship was a much more notable scalp but the Rebels avenged that loss in the group opener in Ennis last weekend.

Clare didn’t score from play in the first half and Cork led by five points at the interval but then had to withstand a Banner barrage to get out of Cusack Park with victory.

Aaron Griffin’s opportunistic goal and points from Emmet McMahon and Ciaran Downes levelled the game in the second half but an injection of fresh legs off the bench meant Cork won by two.

With Donegal to come in their final game, bottom spot beckons if Clare can’t force a result in Omagh and manager Mark Fitzgerald insists that his men can cause an upset.

“We wouldn’t go to Omagh if we didn’t think we had a chance, we wouldn’t be in this competition if we didn’t think we had a chance,” said Fitzgerald.

Like Fitzgerald, Tyrone joint-manager Brian Dooher has named an unchanged side for the pivotal clash and, like all managers, Dooher will believe that his Red Hands are one performance away from gelling and delivering on their undoubted potential.

At the minute Tyrone are capable of conjuring up the move of the game or the score of any game, but they are lacking the consistency needed to be among the favourites for the Sam Maguire. With the talent in the side – swelled by the recent influx of All-Ireland U20 winners – it is surely only a matter of time before they find their groove.

Clare showed character against Cork last weekend but the Division One experience and class of Tyrone should be too much for them. It’ll be a surprise if the Red Hands don’t win this by five points.

Tyrone: N Morgan; N Devlin, P Hampsey, M McKernan; B Cullen, M Donnelly, K McGeary; B Kennedy, C Kilpatrick; C Daly, M O’Neill, S O’Donnell; D McCurry, D Canavan, R Canavan

Clare: S Ryan; M Doherty, C Brennan, R Lanigan; A Sweeney, C Rouine, I Ugweru; B McNamara, D Bohannon; D Walsh, D Coughlan, G Murray; C Downes, A Griffin, E McMahon