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Monday 11 December 2017

McMenamin: Harte has had Dublin in his sights for a long, long time

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte shakes hands with Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney following their All-Ireland SFC quarter-final at Croke Park last Saturday. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte shakes hands with Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney following their All-Ireland SFC quarter-final at Croke Park last Saturday. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Given the analytical nature they share, it is improbable that either Jim Gavin or Mickey Harte is thinking about the other's team for the first time this morning ahead of their meeting in Croke Park on August 27.

Indeed former Tyrone defender Ryan McMenamin reckons Harte "has had Dublin in his sights a long, long time."

"Knowing Mickey as I do," the three-time All-Ireland winner told the Herald: "I'd say he has been planning for Dublin from a long way out. Mickey will have no fear.

"He mightn't say it but he probably has his eye on Dublin a long time. Studying how to beat them.

"I would be sure that he has something worked out.

Former Tyrone defender Ryan McMenamin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Former Tyrone defender Ryan McMenamin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

"Mickey has alluded to it himself," McMenamin went on, "when he said that when they beat Donegal, it was 18 months in the making, that sort of performance.

"And the confidence grew once they beat Donegal. They started believing more in the system."

Tormented

Together, the Red Hand pair tormented Dublin in 2005 and 2008 during the glory years of Harte's early managerial reign although they also tasted defeat in their last Championship meeting in 2011.

That evening, Diarmuid Connolly kicked seven points from play, mostly off one of the other formiddable members of Tyrone's once feared defence, Conor Gormley and the St Vincent's man will be the most-talked about player in the prelude to this year's semi-final.

"The one thing Mickey would say would be to expect the unexpected," McMenamin stressed.

"He would always preach that. I think Diarmuid Connolly is too good a player…you are going to have to make adjustments when he comes on.

"He hasn't played in twelve weeks so match sharpness is going to be an issue. But I would say that he is going to be sprung from the bench.

"I would be surprised if he is starting.

"But Mickey has probably got his match-ups already done. He already knows how is going to be marking who.

"He is meticulous - the same as Jim Gavin."

McMenamin watched the one-sided fare in Croke Park on Saturday night as both teams waltzed into the semi-final and reckoned each were already showing signs of thinking about the other.

The deployment of Eric Lowndes as a wing-forward by Gavin, he noted, looked suspiciously like a test run.

"I know Jack McCaffrey started with twelve on his back but dropped back against Monaghan but you could see Dublin making slight changes to the way they play in anticipation for Tyrone," he reckoned.

Tinkering

"What you saw in the two quarter-finals on Saturday was probably the managers doing a slight bit of tinkering and getting their game plans right for the semi-final.

"Dublin seem to be playing with seven defenders now - now, they're seven pacey, very good players who can play in the forwards as well.

"But you could see in that maybe Dublin are acknowledging that Tyrone are coming with a very good team."

Neither team, McMenamin points out, have had their guts checked this summer but he has seen areas Tyrone can exploit.

"I know against Monaghan and Kildare, there were signs that sometimes the Dubs were giving scores away a little too handy," he says.

"There were goal chances where they switched off, when Jack McCarron had a chance.

"There are wee small things that they didn't do last year. Maybe they're giving teams chances a little bit easier.

"But," the Dromore man goes on, "they haven't played a team that will punish them. And they would always be confident of catching the teams they've played so far if they do concede a goal.

"Whereas in two weeks' time, Tyrone are going to be much harder to break down."

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