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Thursday 18 October 2018

Ulster sides on red alert

Ulster SFC q-final Tyrone v Monaghan (Omagh, Tomorrow 4.0)

DANGER MAN: Tyrone attacker Mark Bradley. Photo: Sportsfile
DANGER MAN: Tyrone attacker Mark Bradley. Photo: Sportsfile

So, what to expect in Healy Park? A heavyweight collision to light up the summer? Or an ultra-cautious rehash of Castlebar last Sunday?

It might be foolhardy to predict the former, given the counter-attacking modus operandi (a polite synonym for sleep-inducing blanket defence) generally favoured by Tyrone and Monaghan in recent years.

Not to mention the familiarity-breeds-sterility argument.

And yet, before this Battle of Omagh with a difference actually happens, there is lots of excitable anticipation, and annoyance, that armchair viewers must settle for deferred coverage on BBC 2 NI (7.0).

Target

For both Mickey Harte and Malachy O'Rourke, there is plenty at stake, even if reaching the Super 8s is the more important target.

Tyrone would love to complete their first ever provincial three-in-a-row. Monaghan would love to win Ulster, full stop.

For both sides, though, there is also a need to show far more ambition coming off their tame All-Ireland exits to Dublin last August.

For Tyrone especially, that was hugely demoralising.

It begged the question would Harte release the handbrake and at least modify his Plan-A tactic of playing double-sweepers with just one man - the diminutive Mark Bradley at that - as the lone raider up front.

The league evidence, coupled with the manager's Thursday night selection (if it's for real), offers some positive signs.

Bradley is joined by Connor McAliskey and the gifted Lee Brennan in what appears to be a more attack-minded inside line.

SFC debutant Brennan (hamstring), All-Star Colm Cavanagh (quad) and Tiernan McCann (knee) have all been named, reportedly having come through an in-house game last weekend.

Monaghan have vast experience, a tenacious, well-drilled defence plus there's a lot more to them than Conor McManus up front - ask Conor McCarthy and Jack McCarron.

But, if Tyrone come out of their shell, they are tipped to edge it.

ODDS: Tyrone 4/7 Draw 15/2 Monaghan 15/8

VERDICT: Tyrone

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