Posted by Mickey Harte
Friday 20 July 2012
It felt almost inevitable that we’d get Kerry in the next round. It’s a draw that many people wanted to see and I think it’s a good draw for both counties.
Kerry will be motivated by the fact that it’s Tyrone coming to play them because in the recent past we have had a degree of success against them. But at the same time we’d like to have had a few more games under the belt, especially before a battle against a team of Kerry’s stature.
Many people will say their performance against Westmeath wasn’t of a Kerry standard but we only need to look back to 2009 when they were being written off after an apparently poor run of form through the qualifiers. Then they met Dublin and came alive so there are plenty of similarities there to look out for.
When people talk about Kerry being in a bad place it’s highly likely they’ll get to a good one very quickly. So that’s the challenge ahead of us. I’ve always had total respect for them and you can’t argue with their record, whatever has happened recently.
All you need to do is look at the number of All-Irelands they have amassed; they’re the Kilkenny of football. Darragh Ó Sé wrote in an article this week that people love to see the top teams fall down and that’s what happened to Kilkenny against Galway. Kerry are in that position as well and it’s a mark of respect to a team when everybody else wants to see them beaten.
So it’s an interesting draw, it’s a very difficult draw and just as Kerry can be energised by it, so too can Tyrone. Every game throws up new challenges and new questions and you always have to come up with the answers. If you can do that then you get your results.
Gameplans and tactics evolve from game to game, never mind from year to year. If someone is thinking ahead of you then you’ll come off second best. Of course the core values of the game are always the same but you need a number of basic gameplans and you have to be able to adjust between different strategies. That’s where the game is gone now.
If a team had a certain style or method of play and you identified them with that in the past, it might have worked well for them then because they applied it to a high level. But that isn’t good enough anymore because if you have a particular system fine-tuned, someone will break it down and find ways to counteract it. You certainly can’t be a slave to one gameplan or one methodology. These days, it’s not about one way of playing the game. It’s about mixing and matching to suit the players on the field at any given time.
DONEGAL HAVE BEEN the favourites all year to win the Ulster title and when they beat us it boosted their confidence and their rating even more. Down haven’t exactly set the world alight. They beat Fermanagh but were up against 14 players and then came back from a considerable deficit to get the better of Monaghan.
James McCartan’s side looked out on their feet in the first half of that game so their recovery from a seemingly lost position will give them a boost. It’s an advantage for them going into the final knowing that they came from such a bad place and still managed to pull through.
It’s also massively important that Benny Coulter and Dan Gordan may be available to them. I also think Liam Doyle is a serious player for them and has showed his quality right the way through from minor level. They have plenty of talent in the side but it depends on how they set up defensively.
Down have been known in the past as a side who go man-to-man at the back and it hasn’t always served them well. They have often been porous as a result of not employing a collective defensive system but I think they will have been addressing that problem in the run up to this game.
If they do that then you’ll find they will mirror Donegal. If they manage to hold out at the back against the defending champions, they have the dangerous forwards in Coulter, Conor Laverty and Mark Poland who are capable of breaking the Donegal stranglehold. It’s not a foregone conclusion by any means.
It’s usually typical of Ulster finals that even if you think one side is the hot favourite you can never rule the other team out. And when that other team is Down, with their history and tradition in championship football, then it levels the playing field. It’s going to be close but I believe that the experience Donegal have had in the last 18 months will see them through.
NOTHING SURPRISES ME these days about team selections. Managers and coaches are always trying different things and it’s easy to name a man at full-forward but deploy him out around the middle of the field after five minutes.
I think there will be a flexibility about Dublin’s line-up on Sunday and I can’t see Michael Dara Mcauley spending his time in the inside forward line because he gets through so much work and is extremely valuable to them at midfield. So I wouldn’t pay too much attention to his selection at full-forward.
It was going to be difficult for Dublin to keep their feet on the ground after the big win over Louth but it was a wake-up call playing Wexford and realising how difficult it was to put them away. They could very easily have been taken that day and maybe they had their minds on the Leinster final and a potential game against Kildare that a lot of people expected.
The closeness of the semi-final will serve them well and you would not expect the defending Leinster and All-Ireland champions to fall at this hurdle. A lot depends, though, on whether Meath can repeat the performance they gave against Kildare but there’s not plentiful evidence across the whole year to suggest they can do that.
But they will be boosted by a performance that maybe even they didn’t expect so anything is possible. Meath have a good group of young players who made a big impact in the semi-final against the odds.It was a very convincing win and if I was coaching those young players I would tell them that you were in a battle against a physical and mature team and you were able to put them away. This is the same challenge again, albeit against the reigning champions.
If you play with the same sort of abandon then you can make a really great statement on Sunday.You should throw off the shackles and go play your football. Many people don’t expect you to win so anything you do will be a bonus and that’s not a bad place to be in.
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