By Shaun Cronin, Head Sports Reporter
It’s the battle of the fallen giants at Healy Park today as old rivals Tyrone and Kerry meet in Division 1 of the Football League.
Mickey Harte’s men are assured of a semi-final spot, but the fact that they can relegate Kerry with a win will have dangled an extra carrot in front of the Red Hands.
Things haven’t been rosy in the Kingdom since Eamonn Fitzmaurice took over.
Defeats to Mayo, Dublin, Kildare and Donegal lead to crisis talk in the county but, they have bounced back well with wins over Down and neighbours Cork to at least have a sniff of survival.
After being dumped out of the Championship last year at the hands of Kerry revenge will form part of the Tyrone’s mental make up going into the match.
That win was a watershed moment for the Kingdom after losing two All-Ireland finals (2005, 2008) to Tyrone in recent times and it was nice to see handshakes after that win in Killarney from two teams who have had some bad blood in the past.
There is no doubt looking at the above picture this is a meeting of the two greatest sides of the 00’s, with either side involved in nine out of the 10 finals contested.
The scenario for Kerry on Sunday is simple, win and hope to better the result of Donegal or Mayo to stay up. Lose and Division 2 beckons.
Should Donegal, Mayo and Kerry win, they will need a miracle result in Omagh to retain their status due to a horrific points difference total.
So where will the contest be won and lost?
I have turned to last year’s meeting to see where Kerry got it right and what Tyrone need to do better.
First off, right from the word go, Mickey Harte will need to cut off the supply into Declan O’Sullivan who is named at corner forward.
You can expect the Dromid Pearses’ man to roam freely on Sunday in search of the ball and if he is let into the game its clear from the video the damage he can do.
Tyrone to their credit have been solid in defence this year only conceding three goals so far.
However, there is a sure fire way to combat the blanket defence and Kerry figured it out last time (see 2.59 – 3.21), that is to kick the ball early into forwards like Kieran Donaghy.
Another way of nullifying that type of defending is to back yourself from long range and who better to have in your side then Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper to do that (see 3.45 – 4.00).
With Kerry being prolific points scorers the onus will be on Tyrone to maybe grab a couple of goals and not spurn any chance in front of Brendan Kealy (see 4.07 – 4.18).
To do this you feel the Red Hands need to see the likes of Peter Harte and Sean Cavanagh running hard at the Kerry defence because the man-to-man system can be exposed by fast breaks (see 4.25 – 4.50).
Finally, discipline has a huge part to play today as it is quite clear that while there is a level of respect between the two sides, there is also a ferocious rivalry that has been built up for over a decade. Even if some of the personnel has changed (see 5.58 - 6.33 and 6.35 – 7.25).
I feel Kerry’s extra motivation might just be enough to see them home but there is nothing that Tyrone and their supporters would love more then booting Fitzmaurice’s county out of the League’s promised land.
Prediction: Kerry win by 3-5 points.
TYRONE V Kerry: N Morgan; A McCrory, Justin McMahon, C McCarron; R McKenna, Joe McMahon, R McNamee; C Cavanagh, S Cavanagh; P McNiece, P Harte, M Donnelly; D McCurry, S O'Neill, R O'Neill.
Tyrone V KERRY: B Kealy; M Ó Sé, M Griffin, S Enright; T Ó Sé, E Brosnan, K Young; A Maher, J Buckley; J Lyne, C Cooper, P Galvin; Declan O'Sullivan, K Donaghy, Darran O'Sullivan.