GAA Football

Stop Monaghan goals and Tyrone can claim Ulster title: former Red Hand keeper Pascal McConnell

Ex-Tyrone goalkeeper Pascal McConnell fears Monaghan's goal threat

TYRONE’S two-time All-Ireland winning goalkeeper Pascal McConnell was warned the Red Hands they must tighten up their defensive centre to keep Monaghan at bay ahead of Saturday’s Ulster final at Croke Park.

Tyrone overcame their provincial nemesis Donegal in a pulsating semi-final while high-scoring Monaghan won an epic shoot-out with Armagh scoring four first-half goals, repeating the same number they nabbed against Donegal in a Division One North encounter earlier this summer.

With Tyrone’s new management team of Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher trying to calibrate a more attack-minded unit since taking over from Mickey Harte, McConnell is concerned the back door has been left ajar ahead of this weekend’s mouth-watering duel.

“Getting over Donegal was massive,” said McConnell, who kept goal for Tyrone in the 2005 and ’08 All-Ireland finals.

“It gave them a psychological lift. When Michael Murphy got sent off that was a massive, massive loss. We were due one over them, but we’ve so much work still to do which is a good thing.

“My only concern going into the Monaghan game is that they are a team that’s getting goals and, yes, we are packing our defence a wee bit but Donegal still carved out those opportunities. Nobody, though, is getting goals like Monaghan at the minute, they really have an eye for goal.”

McConnell added: “If Tyrone can stifle that and limit Monaghan’s goal chances, I think Tyrone will be in with a big shout. The fact that Donegal were fit to penetrate Tyrone’s middle, that gives me a little bit of concern.

“We don’t need bodies back to have comfort in numbers, you need to be working as a unit and you look at that defensive structure last year, it made us very, very hard to penetrate.”

To find themselves in their first provincial final since they eased past Down in the 2017 decider, the Red Hands might feel on bonus territory given how heavily tipped Donegal were to come out of Ulster.

While there are some reservations over Tyrone’s defensive meanness, Newtownstewart clubman McConnell has been impressed with the way in which his native county has attacked games this year - and singled out Darren McCurry and Niall Sludden for special praise.

“In fairness to Feargal and Brian, they are trying things,” McConnell said.

“They’ve only had five or six games – no added bonus of a McKenna Cup campaign to look at players, to look at systems, so they had to hit the ground running in the National League and they were competitive derbies.

“I think with the addition of Niall Sludden starting now it has given them a bit more directness and also Conor McKenna showed the last day what can happen when you drive at pace.

“Tyrone are playing a more expansive game insofar as they’re hitting longer ball into the likes of Darren McCurry. I thought the supply into him in the Cavan game was superb, it was on a plate.

“If you feed him with that kind of ball Darren will do damage. He doesn’t need the ball floating 10 foot in the air but he will win primary ball if he’s scooping it, if he’s getting one or two bounces and he’s turning. That’s where he’s in his element.”

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