Back-to-back Ulster Champions set for Croke Park on August 5th as Red Hand Army comes out in force

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So it is back-to-back Ulster SFC titles for Tyrone but what next…

The O’Neill County’s highly impressive defence of the Anglo Celt Cup has catapulted Mickey Harte’s side back to another date in Croke Park were one of three teams will definitely be in opposition. Monday morning’s All Ireland qualifier draw has pitted Down back against Monaghan, the side they beat in the Ulster semi final to book their provincial final place against Tyrone (a strange flaw in the draw system). Armagh will take on Leinster runners-up, Kildare, and one of the latter three teams will then face the Red Hands in the all Ireland quarter final on August 5th.

GAA All Ireland Senior Football Championship 2017…

  • Round 4A – Mayo v Cork (July 22) – Sky Sports
  • Round 4A – Donegal v Galway (July 22) – Sky Sports
  • Round 4B – Down v Monaghan (July 29) – Sky Sports
  • Round 4B – Kildare v Armagh (July 29) – Sky Sports
  • Quarter-final – Roscommon v Cork/Mayo/Donegal (July 30) – RTÉ
  • Quarter-final – Kerry v Mayo/Donegal/Galway (July 30) – RTÉ
  • Quarter-final – Tyrone v Kildare/Monaghan/Armagh (August 5) – Sky Sports
  • Quarter-final – Dublin v Down/Armagh/Monaghan (August 5) – Sky Sports

A win for Tyrone in that eagerly anticipated return to Croke Park would then mean the awesome mouth watering prospect of a semi final head-to-head with 3-in-a-row Sam Maguire Cup chasing champions, Dublin.

An interesting discussion took place on ‘The Sunday Game’ last night in which the question was asked: “Are Tyrone that good or the opposition in Ulster very poor at present?”

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The responses were somewhat blinkered when you take a look at the last 12 sides in the all Ireland series. Five of the last 12 teams remaining in the hunt for ‘Sam’ in 2017 are Ulster counties and, with two of the Ulster counties to now meet in the final round qualifier, there remains a possibility that Ulster could potentially have half of the quarter finalists, ie. four of the last eight in the series.

Tyrone effectively served up their most commanding Ulster Senior Championship triumph so far, with an incredible 28 points to spare after coming through tests against the three Ds – Derry, Donegal and Down. There have been few Ulster SFC title defences as impressive in recent times with Mickey Harte’s so-called ‘defensive’ outfit hitting an unprecedented 3-60 (0-22, 1-21, 2-17) in 3 championship games.

The immense pace, power, fitness levels and work-rate of this Tyrone team are as good as has been seen in “any team” which has put in a Senior Championship challenge at any stage in the modern game. What is also now apparent though is that an evolving system which Harte, his backroom team and players have been implementing for a number of seasons is now manifesting as a power-packed, defensively solid yet precision based attacking unit which surely has Dublin and Kerry watching with a serious level of concern.

Pat Spillane’s commented on the Sunday Game analysis that…

“Tyrone have great pace, fitness levels and a defensive system to match Dublin and Kerry but their Achilles heel is in the attack. Their inability to convert goals will come back to haunt them in this championships and puts them behind Dublin and Kerry in the championship.”

If you rewind your old recordings from 2005 and 2008, that was the identical analysis from the same pundit!

Make no mistake about it this new Tyrone side, again built by ‘Managerial Legend’ Mickey Harte, has again arrived on the big stage. What has transpired in the Ulster Championship this term is that there are so many options now open to the manager in terms of the 15 players on the field, due to an ever-improving system based on pace, work-rate and movement, that any combination of 24 players could well figure in the remaining matches in 2017!

Take a look at the substitutes that have come into the fray in recent outings. Ronan O’Neill came on as a substitute yesterday and had bagged a goal within a minute and added a second goal minutes later.

In Padraig Hampsey, Tyrone now has an exceptional centre-back who has turned in successive “man of the match” displays while at centre-forward, Niall Sludden has emerged as the ‘real deal’ and one of the best in that position in the current game. In Sean Cavanagh, Mattie Donnelly and Peter Harte we retain three of the best players in Ireland right now – all leaders of the highest quality!

Mickey Harte will, of course, be quick to point out that this Tyrone team is still evolving. and they are. The team are getting better with every championship outing and yesterday they merely kicked up the gears when needed to put the sword to Down’s championship bid. Saturday 5th August will add to the overall experience

Saturday 5th August will add to the overall experience and quality of this latest Tyrone challenge for the Sam Maguire Cup. Having gone close in 2015, losing out in an exciting all Ireland semi final to Kerry, and falling by just a single point to a Mayo side (in the 2016 quarter-final) which should really have gone on to win the all Ireland, Tyrone has evidently been knocking on the door at the highest level. In Croke Park this year in the league, they drew with Dublin while having the beating of the ‘best team of the current era’.

You can be sure now – Mickey Harte’s latest project in building another squad to win an all Ireland Senior Championship title is almost complete. They have arrived on the big stage. They are as good as any side, including Dublin and Kerry, remaining in the title race. The mass of Red Hand fans and ocean of ‘Red and White’ at Clones yesterday portrays that the O’Neill County supporters collectively now believe the same.

Roll on the next outing to GAA HQ at Croke Park. The burning desire for a Tyrone trip there in September is hotter than the sunshine at Clones yesterday. Oh yeah – “Bring it On’………….

Tyrone fans stream onto Clones pitch ‘en masse’ following the ‘back-to-back’ Ulster SFC triumph on Sunday

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