Tyrone to face Monaghan to start historic 3-in-a-row Ulster SFC title bid in 2018

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It may not seem too long ago that Dublin pipped Mayo in that epic All Ireland Senior Football Championship Final and indeed we are not even at the end of October, but already thoughts can start to turn to the 2018 campaign.

The 2018 GAA Football championship Draws just went ahead this evening on RTE and of course, in terms of the provincial title race in Ulster, most eyes were on Tyrone.

The O’Neill County really did make the Anglo-Celt Cup their own in 2017. In fact, there has surely never been a more emphatic winner in the race for the Ulster Senior Football Championship than what Mickey Harte’s charges delivered this term

Tyrone fans stream onto Clones pitch ‘en masse’ following the ‘back-to-back’ Ulster SFC triumph in 2017

2018 will see a most historic bid for the honours too by Tyrone. As Mickey Harte has just been re-appointed as Manager for another three-year term, bringing him to the end of the 2020 season, hopes are high of another significant challenge for Sam Maguire in the period ahead.

It is remarkably 15 years ago this November since Harte stepped into the Tyrone senior hot seat and he has brought a remarkable 3 All Ireland senior titles, 6 Ulster Senior titles and 2 National Leagues ever since. This is currently his best ever spell in Ulster with the back-to-back successes of 2016 and 2017 so a 3-in-a-row will be a most welcome first for all concerned. Tyrone will also be eyeing up a 7th successive Dr McKenna Cup when the new season action gets underway in January 2018.

It is as tough a draw as Tyrone could have got to start their title defence with Monaghan in opposition – probably in Healy Park, Omagh. Tyrone have had an indifferent record in recent campaigns against the Farney County but it is one to look forward to as the championships starts next May.

Sean Cavanagh, who captained Tyrone to the last two Ulster Senior titles but who has now retired, was at the Live draw tonight and commented…

“Hopefully it will be a tougher all-round championship next season as the past few seasons have not been as strong as in the past. Tyrone and Monaghan have always been tough and no doubt it will the same in 2018 as I think they are the best two teams in Ulster right now. Home advantage is not really that big a thing as Tyrone have fared better away in recent seasons.”

But ultimately it will be in the hunt for the Sam Maguire Cup that much interest will be focussed in the years ahead too. Many are still hurting from that heavy defeat at the hands of Dublin in August but then again that Dublin side did complete an incredible three-in-a-row of All Ireland Senior football championship titles. Really they currently look unopposable at present, albeit Mayo have gone agonisingly close for two years running now and Kerry did beat them in the 2017 NFL Division 1 Final, preventing a stunning five-in-a-row of Division 1 league titles.

Tyrone GAA have 6 All Star nominees in 2017 and all 6 will have to play key roles again in 2018 if the O’Neill County are to go back to the top of the tree in the sport

For manager Jim Gavin he can now boast a record of 44 League and Championship games with Dublin and has tasted defeat just twice in that entire period – an astonishing achievement. The Dubs will be huge odds-on to make it 8-in-a-row in Leinster and will see them into the last ‘Super 8’.

But Tyrone will surely have gained considerable experience from 2017 and, despite that semi-final performance, Tyrone looked hugely progressive in 2017. A young developing side with eye-catching potential, there is no reason to think that another big run is on the cards again in 2018.

What adds to the whole equation next year is also the fact that the new “SUPER EIGHT” System comes into play. That means by winning the Ulster SFC, Tyrone would go into the last eight as part of the new Group Stages. That will see two groups of four teams created and each County will play the other 3 counties in their group – meaning it will be a 2nd chance possible, for the first time ever, for the provincial champions.

Incidentally, the Ulster Senior champions of 2018 will go into the Super 8 Group 2 alongside the Leinster Champions of 2018 – possibly Tyrone and Dublin?

We are certainly looking forward to it already…

2018 Ulster Senior Football Championship Draw

Ulster SFC Preliminary Round: Donegal v Cavan

Ulster SFC Quarter Final 1: Fermanagh v Armagh

Ulster SFC Quarter Final 2: TYRONE v Monaghan

Ulster SFC Quarter Final 3: Down v Antrim

Ulster SFC Quarter Final 4: Derry v Donegal OR Cavan

Ulster SFC Semi-Final 1: Winner Quarter Final 1 v Winner Quarter Final 2

Ulster SFC Semi-Final 2: Winner Quarter Final 3 v Winner Quarter Final 4

Ulster SFC Final: Winner Semi-Final 1 v Winner Semi-Final 2

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