Saturday 7 December 2019

More than just pride at stake

Paddy McBrearty
Paddy McBrearty

Just in case the love-in with the Ulster SFC hasn't been quite fawning enough, the province throws up the first meeting of credible All-Ireland contenders this summer in Kingspan Breffni Park when Tyrone and Donegal collide this evening.

It has, in the most recent past, been a flinty rivalry but the incentive is huge here.

If Donegal's grinding victory over Fermanagh was nothing more a useful exercise in patience and perseverance, it was also one in which Paddy McBrearty demonstrated he is fit again to reclaim his place among the game's best inside forwards after last year's cruciate injury.

Similarly, Tyrone's facile over-running of Antrim did little to answer the question about whether they can go one further than last year's All-Ireland final appearance.

But whoever loses here will have to navigate a potentially treacherous route back to relevance.

Monaghan - no stranger to either team - are a possible opponent for the vanquished come Monday morning's draw.

After that, Mayo are among the big fish lurking in the murky backwaters of the qualifiers.

For two teams with stated All-Ireland ambitions this year, there is something far more tangible than provincial pride at stake in Cavan tonight.

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