Tyrone go west to face new-look Galway

Galway's goalscorers against Donegal, Johnny Heaney  and   Sean Kelly, up against Tyrone's Peter Harte last year.<br />Picture: Seamus Loughran.
Galway's goalscorers against Donegal, Johnny Heaney and Sean Kelly, up against Tyrone's Peter Harte last year.
Picture: Seamus Loughran.

Allianz Football League Division One, round four: Galway v Tyrone (Tuam, 2pm Sunday)

THE revivalists against the outcasts? Public perception may pin labels on teams but reality is usually more complex.

Tyrone were vilified after the late sending-off of Kerry captain David Clifford in Edendork in round three, even though the hosts had earlier lost Peter Harte in very similar circumstances.

Galway are now regarded as getting back to themselves under new manager Padraic Joyce – but two years ago his predecessor Kevin Walsh took them to the Division One Final and a first All-Ireland SFC semi-final since 2001.

There is, admittedly, evidence of a significant change of style for Galway: for example, their two goals against Donegal came from their corner-backs. Given that previous boss Walsh at times appeared to have corner-forwards regularly working back in defence, that’s quite the transformation.

Joyce has so far delivered on his promise of a more attacking approach and such positivity has paid off with wins over Monaghan and Donegal and a narrow defeat in Kerry.

Tomorrow they’re aiming to complete an Ulster top flight treble, as they did two years ago.

Tyrone, though, will be buoyed not only by the recent memory of that hard-fought victory over the Kingdom but also the recollection of their last clash with the Tribesmen.

Mickey Harte’s men effected a 14-point turnaround to win by seven points. Yep, ‘turgid’ Tyrone scored 3-15 in a round seven game when a place in the final was still up for grabs.

Galway ground out the win at this venue two years ago on their return to the top flight after five seasons in Division Two, 1-9 to 0-8 victors. The expectation, weather permitting, is that this will be a more open contest, if not as high-scoring as that Healy Park affair.

Kieran McGeary switched onto Walsh for the second half in Omagh last year and did a good man-marking job, although Harte acknowledged afterwards that the wind was against Galway then.

Walsh along with Damien Comer will offer a major central attacking threat, with Paul Conroy likely to get more game-time too.

For what it’s worth, Galway named their team very early, bringing in Corofin’s Liam Silke at centre half-back in place of John Daly. There are also two changes in attack, Eamon Brannigan and Adrian Varley replacing Finnian Ó Laoi and Michael Boyle.

Whether or not Tyrone announce a selection, there’ll still be question marks over the men who will line out in white and red. It’s not quite that goalkeeper Niall Morgan is the only certainty, far from it, but that Harte has a wide choice.

The test for Tyrone is to prove wrong the doubters, those who say that, beyond some stars, their options are ‘much of a muchness’ (or worse descriptions).

Obviously the travelling support will be hoping for the inclusion of Cathal McShane, after the Allstar full-forward’s return to the fray off the bench against Kerry.

A fortnight on from his playing return, the Owen Roe’s clubman can create chances and space for colleagues, drawing defenders to him, providing openings for the in-form Darren McCurry and talents such as Peter Harte and Niall Sludden. Of course, he can take a score or two himself as well. His tussle with the Tribe’s towering full-back Sean Mulkerrin could be one of the key battles here. Don’t doubt that Galway will focus on their defensive duties just as much as the visitors.

After this, Tyrone host Dublin before two more trips west, to Donegal, then Mayo.

Taking something back home after their first journey in that direction in this campaign is not quite vital, but a pointless return will still pitch Tyrone back into the ‘troubled’ category.

Galway: C Gleeson; S Kelly, S Mulkerrin, J Heaney; G O'Donnell, L Silke, C McDaid; R Steede, C D'Arcy; E Brannigan, D Comer, M Daly; R Finnerty, S Walsh, A Varley.

Tyrone: TBA

Referee: Conor Lane (Cork).