Tyrone’s old stager hoping for a bit part in Sunday’s final

CHRIS LAWN is one of three current players who were involved in Tyrone’s last appearance in the All-Ireland final eight years ago.

But, unlike the other two team captain Peter Canavan and Gerard Cavlan the best he can hope for is an appearance at some stage of Sunday's Bank of Ireland championship decider.

Since the win over Kerry he has trained hard, accepting the reality that he has lost his place at full-back to Cormac McAnallen.

Lawn was injured earlier in the year but recovered to make the latter stages of the League and retain his place for the championship. He remained in the team up to the Ulster final against Down, when he suffered a recurrence of the injury. In his own words, "he didn't have a great day anyway".

"Hopefully I can get some involvement.

"I'm sure the 30 men in the panel feel the same. I don't think there's any point in training that hard and putting in an effort if you don't expect to play at some stage.

"You've got to set your standards and set them high."

What impresses him about McAnallen is the way he fitted into the full-back position so easily.

"It's almost unbelievable,' he says. "Look at his defensive ability, the way he reads the game so well.

"He looks so comfortable under the high ball, attacking the ball and driving out with it. And, he's a natural leader in there too. It helps the boys around him; he gives them a lot of confidence."

While acknowledging the criticism of the Tyrone tactics, he defends their approach.

"I don't think Mickey Harte would send out any team to play negative football. It wouldn't be his style and certainly not this team's style.

"Maybe it wasn't a pretty game but the result was pretty for us. Sometimes we have been down to Croke Park and tried to play a different style of football. But, we were just 'beat out of it'.

"It wasn't as if we tried to change our game plan. It just so happened we had to work that wee bit harder when we hadn't the ball and that was the way it panned out."

Lawn is unsure if Armagh are a better team this year. On the other hand, he has absolutely no doubt they are better prepared for this final than Tyrone can hope to be.

"Certainly, they bring the experience of last year and their preparation this year. They have worked so hard to get back after the defeat by Monaghan.

"Some people might say they had an 'iffy' enough performance against Antrim and they were being ripped to shreds in the press. Now they are back where they rightfully deserve to be. They have played some great football, as only Armagh can do.

"They are incredible men and an incredible team."

By way of example, he points to the penalty scored by Oisin McConville late in the semi-final against Donegal and the character he demonstrated.

"Oisin has won his All-Irelands at club level and he won his All-Ireland last year, but it was still eating at him that he missed that penalty in last year's final.

"It took a lot of bottle to go for the goal."

There's little comparison between this and the '95 final, he points out, principally because there's been much more hype this time.

"On the other hand, the younger members of the team have experience of winning minor and U-21 All-Ireland medals, so it was 'a natural progression' for them to play in a senior final at some stage.

"However, I feel the team as a whole is dealing with it pretty well and the management are keeping our feet firmly on the ground.

"We can only go out and try and compete with them. You'll not hear too many coaches or players coming out and say that they are confident about winning, but we're certainly confident in our fitness and our own ability as footballers.

"No matter how well we prepare, we don't know what way players as individuals are going to feel on the day."

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