GAA Football

Tyrone have the firepower to trouble Donegal: McKernan

Tyrone's Michael McKernan in action against Cavan on Saturday.
Pic Philip Walsh
Francis Mooney

Michael McKernan believes Tyrone have the firepower to rattle Donegal in Sunday's Ulster SFC semi-final.

Darren McCurry's magical 10-point haul against Cavan highlighted his outstanding form, while the return of former All-Star full forward Cathal McShane is a massive boost to the Red Hands.

And with Conor McKenna and Darragh Canavan on the mend following knocks, an awesome attacking unit could come together at Brewster Park.

"Darren is playing out of his skin and to have Cathal back up front as an option is great, and then Paul (Donaghy) is in there as well. He was very good for the club last year and he has been playing well for us," said corner back McKernan.

"We do have options, and we're not afraid to use them all."

But it won't be as straightforward as throwing everything into attack, despite Tyrone's shift to a more offensive strategy under new managers Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher.

A harsh lesson learned in a six-goal rout at the hands of Kerry in Killarney will inform at least part of the thinking behind preparations for this weekend's eliminator.

And the recent history of Tyrone-Donegal clashes suggests a cagey encounter with a minimal amount of risks.

"Brian and Feargal have come in and they are playing a bit more attacking.

"But game by game, you have to adjust to your opponents as well, so it's just about tinkering with the systems and doing what we need to do to hopefully get us across the line against whatever team we're playing."

Last weekend's quarter-final victory over Cavan gave the Red Hands an opportunity to re-set and repair damaged confidence following the harrowing NFL semi-final experience at Fitzgerald Stadium.

A comfortable eight points success over the reigning provincial champions was not unexpected, but to McKernan, the opportunity to compete was equally important to the result.

"It was good to get off the mark again after what happened against Kerry.

"You want to be playing competitive games. We did play a couple of friendlies and we play in-house games, but nothing compares to everything being on the line against Cavan, it being straight knock-out and having to win.

"The Kerry match obviously didn't go as planned, but that's one of those things that happens in football.

"We had a lot of stuff to work on, we still do have a lot of stuff to work on before Donegal, and all we can do is keep improving. Hopefully this week we can improve again."

However, the Red Hands learned little about themselves in a game that never got to high levels of intensity, while Donegal go into Sunday's semi-final battle-hardened following their ferocious clash with Derry, which required a late Paddy McBrearty special to see them through.

"Donegal are always ready for Championship football and they're always very good against us.

"I can't remember the last time we beat them in Championship, so they have a bit of a bounce on us.

"And obviously getting Michael Murphy back is a huge bonus to them, so that's' another key player that we'll have to watch out for.

"They have the likes of Paddy McBrearty, who is back fully fit, Michael Murphy came back in on Sunday, and then they have the likes of Niall O'Donnell, and Hugh McFadden, who drops back.

"All round, they're a very good team in both defensive and attacking, so it's going to be a massive ask for us, especially on the recent record, they do have the bounce on us.

"All we can do is focus on ourselves and hopefully we'll work around it."

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GAA Football