GAA Football

Tyrone could pose more attacking threats this summer - Dermot Carlin

Cathal McShane's ability to win aerial ball has boosted Tyrone's attacking options.
Pic Philip Walsh.
Francis Mooney

TYRONE could add an additional surprise element to complement their new kicking game this summer, according to Dermot Carlin.

The double All-Ireland winner believes the Red Hands can bring a variety of approaches to their Championship challenge, which begins on May 12 with a provincial opener against Derry.

The familiar Red Hand running game carried a level of predictability, but all that changed during this year’s league when a long ball game brought a new dimension.

“Now we have a Plan A and a Plan B, and maybe we can develop it a wee bit more, with something else up our sleeve come championship time,” said former Tyrone defender Carlin.

“Not that long ago, everybody knew what we were going to do, but to add that long ball dimension in now causes problems for the opposition in deciding what to do – sit back to block it out, then there’s the danger that we take over with our running game.”

Carlin welcomed the switch to the more direct approach which made a significant contribution to a five-game unbeaten run towards the end of the NFL Division One campaign.

With ball-winners of the quality of Mattie Donnelly and Cathal McShane, along with a collective of talented kick-passers, it’s a strategy to which Tyrone are ideally suited.

“There’s that mix of players in Tyrone that are capable of doing that, they have got the speed to break lines and bust lines, and we have also got the men inside to win their own ball and to lay it off to runners and shooters.”

“It was always in us, we always had good ball winners inside. The style that they have adapted over the last few league games has really brought them on.“I think that’s the way you should play the game. We have done the running game for so long, and yes, we are very good at it.

“But to mix it up like that has just given us a different dimension, with that early long ball in, and the mark had really helped.”

And he argued that the removal of the ‘advance mark’ rule for the Championship should not deter Mickey Harte from encouraging his team to continue to seek out the target men with long, searching deliveries.

“They can still be effective. If you look at Mattie Donnelly getting the ball inside 30 yards, he’s always dangerous.

“And Cathal McShane has come on leaps and bounds because we have started to use more direct ball. By all accounts he has been very good in in-house matches and it’s showing.”

Carlin is also encouraged by the fact that Tyrone now appear to carry a goal threat. They hit the net seven times in their last five games, a strike rate well up on previous seasons and another positive factor.

“We have racked up a few goals now, especially against the Dubs. It was nice to see that and I think that was where we struggled over the past couple of years.

“The system that we played only took us so far, but against the big teams we needed to get a goal chance, and when we did get the chance, we needed to convert it.

“For example in the All-Ireland semi-final a couple of years ago against Kerry we did have a few goal chances and we just didn’t take them.

“But I think with that long early ball, it’s going to give us more of those chances, and it seems to me that the players are playing with a lot more confidence now.”

The Red Hands, with home advantage against an opponent that competed in Division Four this year, are expected to brush aside Derry’s Ulster Championship preliminary round challenge comfortably.

But Carlin warned that the Oak Leafers will be no pushover at Healy Park next month.

“I don’t think we have ever got it easy when Derry came to Healy Park. In the Ulster Championship, nothing is a given.

“They’ll be full of confidence after their league final win in Croke Park, even though it’s Division Four. It’s still silverware in Croke Park and it will do their confidence a world of good.

“But I’m sure Mickey will have the boys well drilled, that if we’re not on our game, we will be taken. He will make sure that they’re on song and ready for the challenge and up for it.”

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