Tyrone take a test of uncertainty this weekend as they travel to Newbridge on Saturday evening, facing a Kildare side that has had an inconsistent championship campaign to say the least. Both teams gave encouraging displays the last day out, Kildare overcoming Antrim with 14 points to spare while Tyrone beat Longford by 4 points.
It’s hard to know what to expect from the Lilywhites, will they deliver a ‘Newbridge or nowhere’ performance or will they limp out of this year’s championship without reaching the potential they displayed this time last season. Brian McGuigan believes the venue could be a leveller and will certainly give Kildare a much needed boost,
“If the match had of been up in Omagh I think Tyrone would have won convincingly but now that it’s in Newbridge it has definitely made it a level playing field and if you throw in the fact that Tyrone aren’t playing that well, I know they beat Longford last week but it wasn’t a convincing performance but sometimes when you’re beat, the next day is about getting over the line and it’s not about how you perform, it’s just getting into the next round”.
“If Tyrone win in Newbridge you can only see what it’ll do to their confidence, it’ll give them a great lift and it’ll be one more round to get to the super 8s and looking at the losers of the provincial finals, Tyrone’s well capable of beating any of them and the fact that a couple of them have come off bad drummings it’s hard to know what place they’re going to be in. I think it’s a massive game for Tyrone, it’s one they’re well capable of getting over but I think it’s going to be a tough obstacle for them”.
McGuigan doesn’t read too much into Kildare’s poor form and envisions a big game coming from the hosts come Saturday afternoon, “Daniel Flynn has been a massive lost for them because he was their outlet at full forward and the fact that they haven’t got him now, I think they’re limited but if you look at the draw this is one of the teams Tyrone didn’t want”.
“Kildare are going to relish playing the likes of Tyrone whereas if they were playing the likes of Westmeath or Laois, it’s not really a game that they could get themselves up for so they know now they’re in a situation where it’s all or nothing for them and their whole summer depends on this game. I think it will be a hostile environment in Newbridge and everything favours Kildare but you can just imagine what it’ll do to Tyrone’s confidence if they do get over a round like this”.
The ex Tyrone star points to the leaders within the group and their concerning form of late, while he also considers how injuries and squad departures have upset the group, “I know that Padraig Hampsey is definitely struggling and it seems to be a long term thing were he’s just going to have to play through the pain barrier. You can see from Paudie’s performances, they haven’t been what we’ve been used to this past two years, he’s All-Star material and he just can’t do it because he’s fighting against himself all the time through injury”.
“I think the more worrying thing is the likes of Peter Harte, Mattie Donnelly and Niall Sludden aren’t playing to their potential and they are three of the players that Tyrone look to whenever things haven’t been going well in the past couple of years and the fact that they’re not at their usual standard is worrying for Tyrone. It’s time for new players to step up and I know the likes of my own club mate Michael Cassidy has played well when he’s come on”.
“Cathal McShane has been brilliant for Tyrone, the fact that he’s been playing, that’s the reason that they are contenders because he gives them that different dimension going forward but I do think the one thing they are missing with Cathal McShane up front is the likes of a Mark Bradley, a Lee Brennan or a Ronan O’Neill up with him. A big man and a wee man might work well together but the fact that they haven’t got those players is a big hindrance for them”.
Although a tough game is in prospect Tyrone still hold the favourites tag, one that is justified according to McGuigan, who feels that if Tyrone can get over the challenge of Kildare, it would really stand to them when the super 8s come to town, “I do think Tyrone will win but they’ll struggle to get over the line, I think it’ll be a 2 or 3 point win”.
“If you give Mickey Harte or Tyrone a 2 or 3 point win now they’ll definitely take it because it’s all about momentum going into the super 8s and if they can just get over the line in the next couple of rounds, nobody will be expecting anything from them and that’s the way that Mickey Harte will want to go into the super 8s, with an underdog mentality because that’s when he really comes into his own”.