Trainer says Tyrone are ready for new challenge

ALL-IRELAND football champions Tyrone are enthusiastic about taking on Connacht champions Mayo in the Bank of Ireland championship quarter-final in Croke Park next Saturday.

Selector and team trainer Paddy Tally described it as a ‘fresh’ challenge against a county against which many of the current squad have had no experience of playing championship.

Reacting to the draw, Tally said that at this stage it ‘didn’t totally matter’ against whom they were drawn. Alluding to the fact that they weren’t paired with Armagh (or Kerry or Westmeath), he welcomed the fact that it would be against a different team. “We haven’t played Mayo in a championship game for a number of years (1989, in the All-Ireland semi-final, when they lost). The only experience for a lot of the present players against Mayo would have been in the National League semi-final in 2002. They are a very good team, very well organised and this year they proved themselves in Connacht. It’s certainly a new challenge for us.”

Apart from the form of Kieran McDonald and the two Mortimers in attack, as well as the influence James Nallen has on the team, he says he has been very impressed with their approach to games. “They’re bursting with confidence. They are a team that seems to have a very strong ‘mental game’ this year more than anything else. They seem to be very confident the way they are playing. It’s a new challenge for us and one we won’t be taking lightly.”

In the meantime, Tyrone have a number of injury worries ahead of Saturday’s All-Ireland quarter-final clash with Mayo.

Goalkeeper Pascal McConnell appears to be the most serious doubt, after having two teeth dislodged during the second half of Sunday’s Qualifier win over Laois.

“Pascal has two teeth fairly well dislodged. I’d say they can be salvaged by modern technology, but they were well driven back in his head,” said Harte.

“It depends what he has to get done with them, and whether he’s advised that contact sport may be detrimental to their wellbeing. We’ll have to see what the dental report is.”

Owen Mulligan, who came off with a dead leg injury four minutes into the second half after hitting 1-3 in the first, is doubtful, but hopeful that he can face the Connacht champions.

“He got it in the first half, but after half-time he became more aware of it and it became more difficult for him. We’re hopeful that he will be available for Saturday.”

And Joe McMahon, who failed to reappear after going off with a blood injury after just 15 minutes, is also in the frame for selection.

“Joe had an x-ray done and there’s nothing broken, he had bruising to the chest as well as the smack on the nose he got.”

Peter Canavan, who failed to make his anticipated substitute appearance last weekend, after suffering yet another setback on his road to recovery, is also expected to be included in the squad to face John Maughan’s side.

“He had a bit of a niggle in the ankle, not the original injury. He got another bit of a twist in it, but he should be okay, and he’ll be available on the bench,” said Harte.

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