GAA Football

Tyrone have players to win an All-Ireland says Peter Canavan

Peter Canavan believes the emergence of Lee Brennan and a couple of tactical tweaks makes Tyrone All-Ireland contenders in 2018

PETER CANAVAN is convinced Tyrone’s All-Ireland challenge will be greatly improved on last season and says Mickey Harte now has a panel of players “good enough to go on and win an All-Ireland”.

The 2003 and ’05 All-Ireland winner acknowledged that the Red Hands were “one dimensional and too predictable” to land their fourth Sam Maguire last summer.

Mickey Harte’s men came in for some stinging criticism after they were hammered by All-Ireland champions Dublin in last year’s quarter-final.

While Harte has been irked by the nature of some criticism, Canavan said that when you play that badly you have to “expect criticism and take it on the chin”.

“The mauling that we got was so unlike Tyrone but the bottom line is about doing it on the day and we didn’t,” Canavan said.

“We were possibly too one-dimensional and our set-up was too predictable. Dublin knew exactly what we were going to do. There was no element of surprise.

"I think some of the criticism was warranted and while Mickey may not say that, I think their performances in the League indicate there will be a greater variance in their play and they will not be as one-dimensional moving forward. He’s got the stuff to change it, to change the style of football, and you’ll see Tyrone doing that.”

Canavan added: “This panel of players is good enough to go on and win an All-Ireland. They have to keep progressing and the lesson that they learned last year will stand to them. It’s a case of the players sticking at it, the players getting physically stronger and mentally and the memories of losing to Dublin last year and Mayo the year before should motivate them.”

The emergence of Frank Burns this season has given the Tyrone defence more dynamism while Lee Brennan – expected to be fit ahead of their Ulster Championship showdown with Monaghan on May 20 – has added a great deal more to the inside forward line this year.

The Sky Sports Gaelic football pundit still gives Mayo a chance of winning this year’s All-Ireland, based largely on their ability to time their All-Ireland run, but Stephen Rochford has been unable to unearth any new forwards this year.

“Dublin should have been caught last year by Mayo, and I think people would be foolish to disregard Mayo because one thing Stephen Rochford has turned around in this Mayo team is that they haven’t been flying the past two years in the National League and they haven’t been flying in the Connacht Championship but come the end of the summer they are the team that has put it up to Dublin and have performed at a very high standard.

“So he’s capable of timing his run and getting his players really motoring when it matters.

“I think you’d be foolish to write them off because going on the past two Championships Mayo are extremely close to being All-Ireland champions.

“The downside from Mayo’s point of view is the other three contenders for the All-Ireland: Galway, Tyrone and Kerry have exceptional forwards emerging. Mayo don't have a Lee Brennan, a David Clifford or a Damien Comer – and that’s the area that could let them down once again.”

But for anyone to wrestle Dublin’s crown away, Canavan insists, the chasing pack need to see slippage in the defending champions in 2018.

“It’s going to be very difficult for Dublin to maintain their high levels of consistency. So if there’s any drop there at all and there’s an improvement from a Tyrone team then that gap has got to get closer.”

Of course, there are no guarantees Tyrone will retain their provincial crown and make it three titles in a row, especially with a fancied Monaghan side coming to Healy Park in an intriguing opener.

“Realistically, Ulster is between three teams: Tyrone, Monaghan and Donegal. It’s very hard to look past a Tyrone versus Donegal final or a Monaghan versus Donegal final. That wouldn’t be surprising going on the past four or five years in Ulster.”

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