For the sixth summer in-a-row we have our county in Clones contesting the destination of the Anglo Celt, a huge feat in itself when you consider many of the same players are still involved. Their commitment to their county, the squad can never be questioned. Tyrone stand in our way of a fourth Ulster title since 2011.
Like every final you never know what to expect. A lot of things come into play when there is a title on the line. It affects players in different ways; it can affect officials. They know that everything they do is under the spotlight and that sort of pressure can make people do strange things.
Managers have to make big calls in every game but in an Ulster final they know that they have to be plugged in from the throw-in as every decision is valuable.
So far this year the football championship has struggled to get off the ground. Only for the Monaghan-Donegal games and the first game between Tyrone and Cavan very few other games have reached that championship intensity.
Donegal might have struggled in the first game against Fermanagh but have been on top of their game in the two games against Monaghan. While every player has had moments it’s been the team as a unit that has performed well. Yes, mistakes have been made but that happens. It’s the reaction from the squad when things have gone wrong that have brought us this far.
Monaghan had no answer when Donegal ran at them taking the ball off the shoulder from all angles. It’s hard to pick up players when they are coming from deep and capable of opening up defences for goal chances.
Mickey Harte will have watched and seen the way Rory Gallagher has set up. The Donegal management will have also done their homework so we can expect a tactical battle for the first 50 minutes. It’s when the players get tired and the game opens up we will see where the strength lies.
It’s been awhile since Tyrone have been in this position. While many of the Tyrone squad have had success at U-21 level this is different. However, Harte will have used all his experience to calm and point his players in the right direction.
Donegal’s experience will be vital. Many of the older lads will realise that there will not be many more chances for success. Many came back just to undo the hurt of last year and I expect that disappointment will drive them over the line. Best of luck to both Donegal teams.
Aidan O’Shea is one of the finest footballers in the country. Every day he plays he is subject to tackle after tackle with very little protection. Like Michael Murphy he is a big lad with a fair bit of skill so naturally referees tend not to give them the same frees as they might give to players of lesser stature. When Joe McQuillan blew for a penalty in the qualifier against Fermanagh, Mayo were struggling. Fermanagh were in their faces; they were playing well and Mayo had no answer. The penalty was a game changer, a huge call
Three or four minutes before that Cillian O’Connor was pulled down for a clear cut penalty. McQuillan didn’t give it; it was clear cut but play was waved on; the Mayo crowd were on his case.
When the replay of the incident was shown it was clear there was very little or no contact between O’Shea and the Fermanagh full-back. It was a bad call and the pundits and social media vilified O’Shea. I am not going to stand up for O’Shea; he can do that himself but let’s put a bit of perspective to all the crap that has been said. He was accused of cheating on national television. There is not a player who has played the game that hasn’t taken advantage of the rules in one way or another. Why? To win, of course; whatever it takes is the motto.
We all know that it is only winners that are rewarded regardless of how you get there. How many athletes or cyclists have used all sorts of stuff just to make themselves better. Maradona and the famous hand of God goal against England; Thierry Henry’s sleight of hand against ourselves, the list is endless. Their actions were all done for the cause, to win. O’Shea is not different. He or no other player deserves to be treated in such a manner; neither does Joe McQuillan who made a call in a split second and it’s something that we need to accept.
While television has given us the best coverage of our games, it also exposes the flaws of our game but we are no different than any other sport.