Tuesday 12 December 2017

Tyrone lack inside man

Rory Gallagher. Photo: Sportsfile
Rory Gallagher. Photo: Sportsfile

Ulster SFC: Donegal v Tyrone (Clones, Tomorrow, 2.0, Live RTÉ/BBC)

The team named by Mickey Harte on Thursday evening had neither Cathal McCarron nor Justin McMahon in it, meaning the pair haven't recovered from injury as had been reported or the Tyrone manager has a sense of humour when it comes to announcing team selections.

These are the men most routinely tasked with curtailing the immense influence of Michael Murphy - often in tandem - and it is inconceivable both wouldn't start if able to do so.

No player can claim to win big, competitive inter-county matches on their own any more but Murphy comes closer than anyone.

Harte said this week that he was preparing for a Donegal team with Paddy McBrearty in it, something Rory Gallagher has enjoyed all too rarely this year.

Vitally, this will be the first taste of what has become a bitter and twisted rivalry for as many as seven of Donegal's starters tomorrow and as such, there are no guarantees as to how any of them react to the sort of wars the matches between these teams have become.

The flip side is that these Donegal youngsters haven't suffered at Tyrone's hands yet either and a victory here could be the making of the next dominant side in Ulster.

They clearly have pace but this year Gallagher has played with more men ahead of the ball - targets - than has previously been the case.

We won't fully know until some time after throw-in how much of that swashbuckling devotion to attack is sacrificed to try and neuter Tyrone.

Tyrone, meanwhile, still lack the Conor McManus/Paul Geaney-type inside man to truly claim to have all the faculties for an All-Ireland bid.

Donegal may well have more of those qualities than anyone in Ulster but certainly, the have the sort of counter-attacking game which regularly unhinges Tyrone.

Either way, this game - assuming it follows the methodical patterns of recent instalments - is highly unlikely to win any awards for artistic merit.

We're inclined to put faith in potential here.

ODDS: Donegal 7/5, Draw 7/1, Tyrone 4/5

VERDICT: Donegal

Connacht SFC: Roscommon v Leitrim

(Hyde Park, Tomorrow, 3.30)

"There's no life for us beyond Leitrim," said Kevin McStay in the prelude to this game.

On the one hand, a home draw against Connacht's lowest-ranked side (other than London and New York) is a plum draw but the scale and regularity of hidings endured by Roscommon in the league mean he wasn't inclined to speculate how his team might handle Galway in a provincial final.

McStay's team may be some way off the athleticism of the elite teams, who they've suffered at the hands of, but that won't matter here.

ODDS: Roscommon 1/10, Draw 14/1, Leitrim 15/2

VERDICT: Roscommon

Leinster U17HC: Dublin v Kilkenny

(O'Moore Park, Tomorrow, 12.00)

Dublin will look to end an encouraging provincial campaign on a high when they meet Kilkenny in their Leinster Under-17 Special Hurling Championship final.

The Dubs have enjoyed successive wins against Offaly and Wexford en route to the decider and will take confidence into the match based on their dominance in the latter stages of both games.

A full, 60-minute display will give the Dubs a fair chance of success but Kilkenny look a more solid bet to prevail, albeit by a narrow margin.

VERDICT: Kilkenny

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