Ronan O’Neill is one of Tyrone’s marquee forwards that the Donegal defence are going to have to keep on a tight rein in Sunday’s Ulster final.
The young St Enda’s star is the Red Hands’ second highest scorer in the championship to date with 2-7, a point less than Peter Harte who has posted 3-5 in Tyrone’s three games. O’Neill’s tally has been accumulated from two games. Amazingly, he did not get on the board in the 5-18 to 2-17 semi-final replay win over Cavan.
An All-Ireland minor winner with Tyrone from 2010 he is playing in his first senior final in what is Tyrone’s first senior final appearance in six seasons.
“These things happen. Teams go through transition and other teams come to the fore. Sometimes you are on the right side of the draw and other times you are on the tougher side of the draw,” said O’Neill on the fact that Tyrone have not made it to a senior final since 2010.
“Tyrone went through a transition period for a few players where a number of the older players like Conor Gormley and Stephen O’Neill moved on.
“Donegal were coming through with a young team and Jim McGuinness had them revitalised and they are a serious team.
“Tyrone had the edge on them in the early 2000s, and Donegal had it over Tyrone for four or five years.
“All of which sets up a good final and we are looking forward to playing them in the final.
“We have to be realistic about it; all we have played so far in the championship are Division Two teams.
“This will be our first game against a Division One team and it will definitely be a step up in intensity.
“Everything in the game will be a step up. We played well the last day in patches against Cavan though we would not be happy with our play in the last 15 minutes when Cavan came at us and we gave away a lot of scores.
“If we allow Donegal back into the game they will punish us even more than Cavan did.
“That is the beauty of having video analysis these days when you can look back on the game and look at the weaknesses and strengths of your performances.
“Hopefully, we can rectify our mistakes from the last day and hopefully they will not happen the next day.”
Donegal’s renowned defensive system is something that does not phase O’Neill.
“That is just the norm these days. You might win three or four balls in a half and what you do with them is all that counts.
“We know what to expect against Donegal. I have played against them in the McKenna Cup and in the National League and they are a serious team and you have to give them credit; they are in their sixth final in-a-row. They are a very good team and we are under no illusion but that we are up against a very good team.”