Danny Hughes: Class of Canavans will always give Tyrone a chance

Darragh Canavan had a fantastic game for Tyrone in their defeat to Monaghan
Darragh Canavan had a fantastic game for Tyrone in their defeat to Monaghan Darragh Canavan had a fantastic game for Tyrone in their defeat to Monaghan

THE modern game. Sweeper keepers. Double sweepers. Cut-runs. Back-door runs. Goalkeepers are now expected to score, or at least contribute to an assist. 

Every weekend brings with it more change in how the game is evolving and adapting. 

When I think of starting in the senior inter-county game at 20 in 2002, I would hazard a guess and say that the position you played and earmarked has evolved and at this time there are very few players who would recognise the positional dynamic back then. 

Taking, for example, the position of goalkeeper, would the same attributes be sought in 2002 from a goalkeeper akin to the one we expect now? I would say the stereotype has changed dramatically. 

Darragh Canavan, who wore number 15 on his back, is as close to what his father represented, but in today’s game, like Darragh, Peter would not be confined to full-forward only. 

Peter Canavan was one of the greatest players I ever saw as a kid. He had everything. Bravery, skill, two-footed. 

Down were blessed with their own forward unit but Tyrone had Canavan. A one-man team. 

Obviously, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and his two sons, Darragh and Ruairi, will now lead the Tyrone attack for the next decade. 

The Tyrone of today is much more balanced than the one ‘God’ played on in the 90s. McCurry, Meyler, McGeary, Peter Harte. Phenomenal players. Mattie Donnelly is back to his brilliant best having had a few years of injury after injury. Mattie is the constant. 

Only in the case of injury, would I be substituting him, especially given his form in the League and now last weekend. 

And I can only assume that the explanation for his withdrawal last weekend when the game was in the mix was protective. 

Cathal McShane has yet to rediscover the form that secured him an Allstar a few seasons ago. 

He will be struggling to make sense of it all having to make do with now being a substitute on a team knocked out in the first round of the Championship. 

But this is no bad Tyrone side. 

Monaghan showed their teeth last weekend, but only when they went behind. Until they were five points down, they lacked intent going forward. That is the key word - ‘intent’. 

Monaghan appear to thrive with the odds stacked against them. In the League, the team looked relegated with a few games to go and somehow they managed the impossible. 

Tyrone in Omagh, five points up, with Conor McManus having a quiet game. Monaghan had to go for broke. 

Conor McCarthy, O’Hanlon, Bannigan and that man Ryan O’Toole stood up and justified their selection on the inter-county stage. 

I would always ask the question of players at that level - why be ordinary when you have secured a place on the county team to be extraordinary?

We are operating in a time when coaching innovation has never been more, well, innovative. 

Players now are much more rounded and skilful than before. They are expected to be fitter and stronger, two-footed and more aware of the tactical positions ‘in game’.  

We are almost operating in a time of the ‘complete’ player.

Another example. The criticism levelled at Shane McGuigan over the years was about his ability to deliver at inter-county level. His talent and proficiency was never in question at club level. 

Could that level be sustained for Derry? Rory Gallagher has transformed McGuigan into one of the deadliest forwards in Ireland at the minute. 

Indeed, many of the Derry players have been transformed through the coaching, philosophy and general playing style of Gallagher tutelage with the Oak Leaf. 

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. 

And Derry are proof of the powers of coaching. Gallagher has created a team who all know their roles and their place in it. 

They say the father of mass car production was Henry Ford and many assume he invented the car. However, Ford invented the assembly line not the car. 

This transformed car production and made the Model T the most popular car in the world. 

“You can have any colour you want,” Ford said, “as long as it’s black.” 

Gallagher does what he does and whether it was Donegal, Fermanagh or now Derry he manages to get every last shred of energy for his teams in a highly organised unit. 

A Henry Ford. 

I am not sure whether Gallagher’s celebrations last weekend in front of his native county supporters were an ‘f’ you or not, but they certainly appeared over the top in a game that was over at half-time. 

By the season’s conclusion, I predict that Gallagher will have wound up more than just a few Erne supporters. He is unlikely to be bothered though. 

Tyrone haven’t gone away nor are they likely too.  They have typically revelled in being laid siege to. 

While they lick their wounds, Down and Donegal get ready to do battle this weekend in Páirc Esler. 

Down have a great chance. Donegal had a horrible League campaign and given the exit of Paddy Carr, county board in-fighting and the performances on the field reflecting as such, the mentality going into a tie against anyone is bound to be on uneasy ground. 

The Donegal players have not become bad players overnight – they are still capable of producing a ‘performance’. 

Aidan O’Rourke will be familiar with a lot of the Down players from his time with James McCartan last season. 

However, I suspect that those same players are a shadow of the men they were – in a good way. 

Conor Laverty has built a more together unit in pre-season. 

Plus he has managed to add a sizeable Kilcoo contingent into the squad.

Their winning mentality and confidence is something that other squad players can feed off for the betterment of their own performances. 

In the corporate world, it is called the 10 per cent rule. 

If you can get 10 per cent more from yourself across an entire team, department, unit, then you can succeed. 

A confident Down is a dangerous animal – it was something we never talked about but there is something about this place that gives you a confidence. 

One thing I do know. With five minutes to go, in Newry, with a heaving ground, Down may well have enough to see them through.