Saffrons’ sharpshooter McCann predicting Kerry-Tyrone final reunion

THEY started the summer as the two clear favourites for the All-Ireland title and Antrim forward Michael McCann believes we may still witness a Tyrone-Kerry final come September despite the latter’s well-documented problems.

Few people are better qualified to run the rule over the Ulster and Munster heavyweights as McCann who scored two points against Mickey Harte’s side in the Ulster final and added four more to his tally against the Kingdom on Sunday.

The 23-year-old Erin’s Own player saw enough in Kerry’s closing quarter in Tullamore to predict that the county’s stuttering All-Ireland campaign is far from over as they face into Monday’s quarter-final against Dublin.

McCann said: “Probably on paper Kerry, footballer for footballer, would maybe edge it on Tyrone but Tyrone play a solid system and their work-rate would be a bit more than Kerry’s. The two of them are class teams.

“They have all the stats to prove it. I wouldn’t be surprised if they meet each other again. I could see a Tyrone versus Kerry final again, definitely. People are talking about Cork this year, and Dublin, but I could see those two meeting again in the final.”

The draw, apart from anything else, would support that view with the winners of Sunday’s Tyrone-Kildare and Cork-Donegal double-header due to contest one semi-final while Dublin or Kerry will face either Mayo, Limerick or Meath on the opposite side.

There is no doubt but that Antrim were overawed by the occasion in Clones for that crucial first 20 minutes two weekends ago but it is, nevertheless, educational to compare how both sides dealt with the Saffron gameplan.

On both occasions Antrim fielded wing-forward Terry O’Neill as a de facto extra defender and Tyrone countered that from the first whistle by employing Ryan McMenamin as an extra attacker to nullify it.

The versatile corner-back was one of Tyrone’s best players on the day but Kerry didn’t cope so well and it wasn’t until Mike McCarthy aped McMenamin’s switch after the interval that Kerry began to negate O’Neill’s influence.

Equally interesting was the influence Antrim’s attacking wing-backs, Tony Scullion and James Loughrey, enjoyed going forward against Kerry. Scullion scored one goal and Loughrey should have had another yet, against Tyrone, they weren’t a factor.

Most worrying of all for Kerry is the statistic concerning the midfield battle. Kerry won by five points despite enjoying 71% of possession from kickouts while Tyrone had a point extra to spare after winning less than 48%.

Thepoint to make at this juncture is that Kerry were hamstrung by the absence of Colm Cooper and Tomás O Sé for much of their match following the pair’s breach of discipline.

Kerry scored just 1-3 in the half an hour before Cooper came on but 1-9 after it and their best period came in the last 15 minutes of the game when O Sé had been introduced and Tadhg Kennelly was replaced by Donncha Walsh.

“People were talking about it being half a Kerry team but it wasn’t half a Kerry team that finished the match,” said McCann. “They rung out all the changes and they went for it.”

McCann’s opinions have been echoed by team captain Paddy Cunningham who scored 11 points in the Ulster final, eight from frees, but who managed only three last Sunday in O’Connor Park.

“I think they were pretty much similar. A lot of our boys were nervous with the size of the crowd (in Clones) but, as sides, they (Kerry and Tyrone) were much the same. They are both quality sides.

“They have quality in their ranks and on the bench, which we know well now, like Tyrone have. They are still the top two teams in the country and you can see why.”

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