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Forward crux puts Tyrone on back foot

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BLOW: Cathal McShane receives treatment prior to being stretchered off against Galway. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

BLOW: Cathal McShane receives treatment prior to being stretchered off against Galway. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

BLOW: Cathal McShane receives treatment prior to being stretchered off against Galway. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Mickey Harte must wonder if he unwittingly walked under a ladder and straight into a shattering mirror on his way into Tuam Stadium.

What followed last Sunday was the perfect storm of two red cards, a record 19-point defeat for the Tyrone boss and a likely five-month lay-off for Cathal McShane after the All Star forward dislocated his ankle.

Could it get any worse? Well, perhaps: psychologically scarred, they must now front up against Dublin in Omagh tomorrow night.

But it's the lack of scoring alternatives, with McShane now joining Mattie Donnelly on the sidelines, that is the biggest fear for former 'keeper Pascal McConnell.

Massive

"A massive, massive defeat," is McConnell's summation of their 2-25 to 0-12 Galway rout. "Cathal is out for the next lock of months. I suppose it's the old rhetoric - it opens the door for somebody. We all wish Cathal a speedy recovery.

"But my only concern now would be that's a scoring forward gone, and that is a major, major disadvantage to Tyrone. Considering Cathal was top scorer in the championship last year.

"Yes, we have Darren McCurry to the fore, but we need more scoring forwards to step up to the plate.

"At the moment we're playing three players more accustomed to being defenders in Frank Burns, Conor Meyler and Kieran McGeary that are taking up three of the forward slots. So, my big concern would be if Dublin tie up Darren McCurry, we could be found very wanting for scores.

"We would hope that some of the lads would step up to the plate. Peter Harte doesn't really look match-fit at the moment.

"From a Tyrone perspective, it's very concerning because, look, Dublin have not been playing at the peak of their powers but they are getting results."

In McShane's absence, the manager must find a new focal point up front. Harte has dabbled with Burns in the role but McConnell prefers to see his physicality and ball-carrying used around the middle.

"Obviously you do have Kyle Coney who is able to kick a score; you have Ronan O'Neill also. So, I think Tyrone need to really get scoring forwards in there," the three-time All-Ireland winner stresses.

"The two lads (McShane and Donnelly) were the focal point of Tyrone's tactics last year; the way they won primary ball, made it stick, brought other players into the game, and also could kick a score themselves.

"That is now missing. We're playing the best team in the country. And Mickey is really going to have to pull one out of the hat."

Motivator

As for the psychological damage shipped as Tyrone's world caved in against Galway, McConnell surmises: "It will be fresh in the minds but, look, it should be the big motivator.

"Mickey has done it before. It's one of his powers; he's got his teams motivated to bounce back.

"But with Tyrone at the moment, I think we're lacking in terms of performance. We can forget about the Kerry game (a surprise one-point win) ... conditions were absolutely abysmal. But a good performance would really be a confidence-booster. And if they can hold Dublin to maybe a couple of points defeat, it will be a big confidence-booster for them.

"But," he concludes, "I can't see anything other than a Dublin victory this weekend, unfortunately."