The new Tyrone management duo of Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher are suddenly discovering that there is a mounting swell of goodwill being shown towards their county – and it’s all because of Cavan’s below-par performance in the recent All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin.
aving stormed to their first Ulster title in 23 years, Mickey Graham’s side had entered their showdown with the Dubs against a backdrop of optimism.
But the reigning champions took a decisive step towards their sixth successive All-Ireland title by coming out on top by 1-24 to 0-12, having moved into overdrive in the second half after leading by 0-12 to 0-7 at half-time.
Yet even though Tyrone fell to Donegal at the first hurdle in the Ulster Championship, the theory doing the rounds since the All-Ireland semi-final is that the Red Hands would have provided much stiffer opposition to the Dubs.
And as the theory has gained traction, so too has the belief that Tyrone could spurt to the fore this year.
With Cathal McShane, Conor McKenna, Mattie Donnelly, Darragh Canavan, Peter Harte and Darren McCurry likely to lead the charge for places up front, the team looks certain to bring considerable firepower to the table.
With Connor McAliskey and Lee Brennan understood to have returned to the squad, it means the new management duo will have considerable selection options.
Along with McShane, Kieran McGeary and Mark Bradley, Brennan was in the Tyrone side that won the 2015 All-Ireland Under-20 title under the baton of Logan and Dooher with Peter Canavan also part of the management team.
Jim McGuinness, Peter Canavan, Oisin McConville and Martin McStay are among a raft of pundits who are convinced that if they can bring their ‘A’ game to the table, then Tyrone have the capacity to trouble the Dubs – something that will certainly provide an element of comfort for the Logan-Dooher partnership as they continue their comprehensive preparations for the new season.
Donegal 2012 All-Ireland-winning manager McGuinness laid it on the line, though, when it came to assessing just what it might take for Tyrone to seriously threaten Dessie Farrell’s side.
“I think if the likes of Tyrone were playing Dublin in the All-Ireland Championship, they would have to get eight to 10 things dead right. Getting four or five things right would be no good because Dublin will come up with answers. You just have to get everything right on the day if you can,” insisted McGuinness.
And it is perhaps no coincidence that there appears to be a renewed level of respect for Tyrone from within Dublin.
Pat Gilroy, who managed the Dublin team that won the 2011 All-Ireland final before he handed over the reins to Jim Gavin, believes that Tyrone could be capable of mounting a serious challenge in 2021.
“People have shown that even when you’re a small county, you can still come up trumps,” insisted Gilroy.
“Tyrone have done brilliantly – they have been in the top tier for the best part of 20 years now having never won an All-Ireland title until 2003.
“And there’s an unbelievably good structure within the county. I don’t believe there’s anyone in Tyrone who wants to see Dublin broken up as some people are suggesting because they want to beat them and they probably will one day.”
And David Hickey, who was a selector under Gilroy, pinpoints what he sees as two vital factors in Dublin’s ongoing dominance of the All-Ireland arena in his own unique way.
“Dublin play every game as if they’re the underdogs. They fight for everything, every last cause until the final whistle blows, and usually by the end of it they’re ahead. But they play as if their lives depend on it,” insisted Hickey.
“Their respect for the opposition is huge no matter who it is. You saw Cork getting caught by Tipperary because they did not show them respect and this was the reason, too, why Kerry were caught by Cork.
“Donegal also got caught out by Cavan but that wouldn’t happen to Dublin, in my opinion. Having said that, they must keep their guard up, especially if they meet Tyrone.”