|Date: Sunday 12 August Throw-in: 15:30 BST Venue: Croke Park, Dublin|
Padraig Hampsey says Tyrone are learning as they win and showing heart as they attempt to
reach a first All-Ireland SFC final in 10 years.
A marked feature of their run to Sunday’s semi-final with Monaghan has been their strong final-quarter push, as in last week’s win over Donegal.
“We have dug deep and ground out results which maybe in recent years we wouldn’t have got,” Hampsey stated.
Tyrone have lost their last four semi-finals in 2009, 2013, 2015 and 2017.
Monaghan have not reached the semi-final stage in 30 years but went unbeaten in their Super 8s group and impressed in the last two outings against Kerry and Galway.
Likewise, Tyrone earned plaudits for their narrow defeat by All-Ireland champions Dublin in Omagh before ending Donegal’s eight-year unbeaten home record in Ballybofey to advance to the last-four showdown in Croke Park.
After four qualifier games, most notably a first round extra-time win over Meath when they came within a few seconds of crashing out before Cathal McShane’s last gasp equaliser
It seems incredible that Rory Beggan and Niall Morgan could have such an influence on Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final, but such is the way of the modern game and the quality of these two goalkeepers.
Monaghan and Tyrone are two evenly matched teams, and if you offered either manager this fixture at the start of the season for a place in the All-Ireland final, they would have bitten your hand off.
Many observers see this as a 50/50 game, and I can’t see there being more than a score between the sides at the full-time whistle, which means the influence of the men between the sticks is crucial.
All season Malachy O’Rourke’s men have dominated possession, the foundation for their run to the last four.
, Tyrone have developed into a compelling force.
Quality players like Lee Brennan and Kieran McGeary are unleashed into games late on as the ‘finishers’ and they are making memorable impacts. Tyrone’s bench contributed 4-11 in the Super 8s series including 2-5 against Donegal.
“We have a deadly connection,” says midfielder Hampsey.
“We’ve been on the road for a few weeks through the back door and built up a good team bond going away to different places and it’s started to show.
“We are enjoying this journey and we’ve shown a bit of heart throughout the campaign.”
Monaghan produced a sparkling display to beat Tyrone in the Ulster championship opener in Omagh in May.
Hampsey says: “It was a battle, conditions were tough and it was wet but Monaghan are a well-drilled side and they deserved it”.
“They are physically strong and they’re a dogged side but this will be a new experience, playing an Ulster side in an All-Ireland semi-final and it is one to look forward to.”
We saw it in Omagh in their Ulster clash this season with Beggan finding team-mates repeatedly. As well as that, his place-kicking is simply artwork, making long distance frees look almost routine.
Niall Morgan (below) had one poor kick-out last weekend against Donegal which was severely punished when Michael Murphy blasted to the net, but apart from that mishap, was superb and major reason why Tyrone dominated the second half. They pretty much had certain possession of their restarts.
Both keepers can pick targets out from 50 or 60 metres out and can create attacks further up the pitch, which puts opposition immediately on the back-foot.
Tyrone have tended not to push up on opposition kick-outs in the past, but this is something i would like to see change and put Beggan under pressure. They must attempt to turn Monaghan over on their own restarts.
Much has been made of Tyrone’s tally of 2-05 from the bench against Donegal, but I don’t see many changes in personnel.
The full-forward line is probably the one area that didn’t perform like Tyrone would have hoped for, but had been fairly consistent up to that point.
Conor Meyler looks likely to miss out after picking up an injury, but at most I would see only two changes.
Kieran McGeary has been superb in the last few weeks and brings a serious amount of energy and drive to the half-back and half-forward line, while Lee Brennan’s four points after his introduction will see him pushing for a spot.
He is also the best free-taker in the county in my opinion and that will give management more to mull over.
Some players however are better suited to coming into a game than others. Brennan still doesn’t have much football under his belt and could be better served as an impact sub if the game opens up a bit, his fresh legs could open up the Monaghan defence. Richie Donnelly for example is someone who I think would be better utilised from the start rather than later in the game.
You take Dublin out of it, Tyrone have the strongest panel in the country, with a lot of players in and around a similar standard.
What they lack is perhaps an out-and-out superstar like the other teams have.
Monaghan seem to have improved all season in getting quicker service into Conor McManus (above). He received a lot of credit in the Ulster win over Tyrone, but up until the last five minutes, Ronan McNamee held him fairly well.
Against Fermanagh it was s similar story, but the delivery has improved since then and the challenge for Monaghan is to continue that.
McManus is likely to make a lot of runs to drag Colm Cavanagh out of the sweeper position and leave openings for others, and that is an aspect of his game that is under-appreciated.
He doesn’t have to score to influence a game, even though he is one of the most lethal finishers in the business.