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Sunday 4 December 2016

Tyrone look built for Croker and have an assured aura about them right now

Seán Cavanagh is among the best players in the country. Photo: Sportsfile
Seán Cavanagh is among the best players in the country. Photo: Sportsfile

Mostly, there are two primary types of All-Ireland football quarter-finalists.

There's the side that have made incremental but discernible progress over the season, having come through the big games in their province, and who have left a trail of improvement behind them from which to trace their very obvious upward-pointing form.

Then there's the team who have suffered a trauma, have cobbled together an uneasy but necessary path back in the direction of relevance and then explode in a good way at just the right time.

Here, we have one of each.

That Ulster title was a very obvious empty box to be ticked on Tyrone's list of things to do as a team, and a win over Donegal was probably just underneath it.

Mobile

Tyrone, as we've seen, are built for Croke Park. They are typically suffocating at the back but also hugely mobile - possibly more so than even Dublin.

Tiernan McCann, Peter Harte and Mattie Donnelly are all hugely important to their ability to convert a turnover into a scoring chance.

Up front, they are measured almost to the point of looking like a team carrying out a pre-determined play when they enter the scoring zone, and eight goals in four Ulster Championship matches this season has made a nonsense of the theory that they won't hit the net often enough to win an All-Ireland.

This is where Mayo's old fault lines begin to become relevant. They have routinely conceded goals against the best teams at the most inopportune times in big matches, and the simple deployment of Kevin McLoughlin as a sweeper is unlikely to interrupt much of Tyrone's approach play, given the comparatively claustrophobic provincial environment in which they normally operate.

There is also the age-old question about Mayo's forwards - Cillian O'Connor and, previously, Andy Moran - making poor decisions and being unable to score in the biggest matches, though this is more relevant to their appearance in All-Ireland finals.

In Seán Cavanagh, Harte, O'Connor and Aidan O'Shea, we'll have some of the best footballers in the country doing battle and the team that can get the most from their main men on the day are likely to win.

You'd just be more certain of Tyrone.

ODDS: Mayo 13/8, Draw 15/2, Tyrone 4/6

VERDICT: Tyrone

All-Ireland sfc quarter-final: Mayo v Tyrone (live sky sports (4.0)

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