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Tyrone may need to hold big guns in reserve to maximise assault on the Kingdom says McGeary

Tyrone's Kieran McGeary and Monaghan's Michael Bannigan in action During the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Final between Tyrone and Monaghan at Croke Park Dublin 07-31-2021. Pic Philip Walsh.
BY FRANCIS MOONEY

TYRONE may look to find a way to hold back some of their big guns for maximum impact off the bench in the latter stages of their rescheduled All-Ireland SFC semi-final clash with Kerry, despite the uncertainty over the health and availability of several of their players.

Cathal McShane, Conor McKenna and Darragh Canavan have fully recovered from injury, but the Red Hands are seriously considering keeping at least one of the trio in reserve as part of the strategy to halt the Sam Maguire Cup favourites.

Whether they are forced to go ahead with the game on August 21 or are granted a further postponement, the Covid-hit Red Hands will not lose sight of the strategy.

“When an opposition sees a player coming on that has a record for coming on and changing a game, it puts a bit of fear into the other team,” said wing forward Kieran McGeary.

“That's what a lot of teams do now. They start with players who can run straight through to 50, 55 minutes, and then you get boys come off the bench to re-energise, and they really drive you over the line.

“Any of the games we have played, we have finished with players on the pitch who could equally start.

“So it's a tough decision for management to make, but one that we fully trust them with.”

That late surge of fresh legs has been a key component of Dublin's success through the last six All-Ireland winning seasons.

With Allstars sitting on the bench waiting for their moment, it's a luxury that few other counties can aspire to, but still a dynamic worth employing.

“We saw Kevin McManamon coming on for Dublin for years and teams hated to see him coming, because he was liable to hit the net or score the winner or do something like that.

“It's not that they want to become that player for the rest of their career, but given the situation that it is, they may just fulfil that role for the moment.”

Niall Morgan's influence is another key component of the Red Hand game plan, whether through the high success rate of his range of kick-outs or his deployment as an extra outfield player, even pressing the opposition kick-out.

Kerry boss Peter Keane and his assistants will no doubt use the extra week to drill more deeply into the detail of the various restart mechanisms used by the Tyrone goalkeeper in an effort to break the code.

“We'll be looking for the kick-out that's the best placed pass, whether it be short, medium or long,” said McGeary.

“It's not something that we have genuinely looked at, but I'm sure it will be something that Kerry will look at, Niall's kick and the length or it, and how many people it can cut out, or whatever.

“It hasn't been something that we have thought of. We have a lot of other things to think about first.”

The Ulster final performances of both Morgan and Monaghan's Rory Beggan sone a bright light on a fascinating new world of the evolving goalkeeper as both roamed the field to provide support and cover for team-mates.

“We fully trust Niall in every game that he plays,” said McGeary.

“Most people know that he plays outfield for his club team, Edendork, and plays that to a mighty high standard, so most people know what he is capable of out the pitch, and they also know what he's capable of in nets.

“The last day in particular, it has been the talking point, resulted in him having to do things that he doesn't do lightly.

“And likewise for Rory Beggan, if he hadn't got back and made that tackle, and Mattie (Donnelly) had scored that goal, people would have been saying, well what's he doing, he shouldn't be doing that.

“But because he got back and he got a hand on, people are saying he has revolutionised the game, changed the game forever.

“But you just have to be careful of when you do it and how you do it.”

The spirit of adventure embraced by these revolutionary net-minders does indeed carry a high risk factor, as Morgan discovered in the NFL semi-final, when Kerry's Gavin White spotted him off his line and lobbed to the net from 40 metres for the second of six goals conceded by Tyrone on a grim afternoon at Fitzgerald Stadium.

“We saw the last day when we were caught out against Kerry in Killarney,” McGeary recalled.

“We were all caught out, not just Niall, so it's probably something that we're going to have to understand in the moment and all be on the same wavelength, like we were against Monaghan. Nobody panicked.”

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