Gormley looks for inspiration in attack

Former All-Ireland winning Tyrone defender Conor Gormley has admitted the county lacks serious firepower and has challenged the current forwards to prove they’re ‘marquee’ talents.

Gormley played alongside the likes of Peter Canavan, Stephen O’Neill and Owen Mulligan during the 2000s but the Red Hands lack that sort of inspiration in attack now.

It’s why they’re rated as a good team but perhaps not a great side capable of taking down Dublin or any of the very top teams to claim a fourth All-Ireland.

They scored just 11 points — seven from play — in last year’s heavy All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Dublin with Niall Sludden the only forward to score from play.

“There’s a lot of chat about these marquee forwards and maybe they just don’t have that now,” said Gormley at the launch of the EirGrid All-Ireland U-20 football championship.

“Mark Bradley has been tried in there, Connor McAliskey too, and it’s good to see him back, maybe Ronan O’Neill.

“But we don’t really have that Conor McManus stand-out forward, a Michael Murphy or Paddy McBrearty, that real stand-out forward playing for us in there.”

Lee Brennan, one of the most stylish forwards in Tyrone, has gotten his chance this year and impressed at times. Gormley isn’t convinced, not so much about Brennan, but about any of the Tyrone forwards.

“I suppose if they are marquee forwards, they have to be hitting 1-2 or 1-3, or 0-5 or 0-6 against Dublin, against the Jonny Coopers and Philly McMahons, then you can say these boys are really top drawer,” the three-time All-Ireland winner continued.

“Or against Keith Higgins, that is when you need to be showing that you have the full package. We were very fortunate on those teams I played on.

Going to training any night, when you had to mark any of those boys, you wondered, ‘Where do I go?’ If those boys were all standing in the forward line, you were wondering who do you pick to have a handy session? You just didn’t.

“Those boys were at the very top of their game and they were fit to show it out here (at Croke Park) on the big days and I suppose that is the challenge now that these boys have to step up at that level.

“They are at a good level now but can they step up to the next level and show that they can hit 1-2 or 1-3 against the top teams and really take the thing by the scruff of the neck and show they are the man.”

Tyrone thought they were cruising along nicely until they ran into Dublin’s sky blue wall at Croke Park last August and lost 2-17 to 0-11.

Their National League Division 2 title and Ulster championship win counted for nought as they struggled.

The commentary afterwards was that they’d have to drop their defensive style of play to truly take on Dublin at Croke Park though Gormley isn’t so sure.

Given the lack of prolific forwards, he reckons they might be better off sticking to their counter-attacking strategy and playing to their athletic strengths.

“There’s been a lot of chat about Tyrone’s style but sometimes you’ve got to deal with what you’ve got and Mickey Harte sees best of all what he has,” said Gormley.

“He has some players who can run up and down all day, like Tiernan McCann, who hopefully will be fit for the Championship, Mattie Donnelly, Peter Harte, so I wouldn’t get too caught up in the style. If that’s what he sees benefiting Tyrone going forward, fine.

Mistakes were key against Dublin. You’ve seen that any team that makes mistakes against Dublin is going to get killed.

“If you can cut down the mistakes as much as possible, you’re in with a shout. Dublin have to be beaten sometime, they’re not going to go on for ever and ever, some team has to step up and beat them, so why not Tyrone? Why can’t they do it?

“I think if they’re confident enough, if they get a good enough run in the Championship, I think they can.

“And if they meet them again, hopefully they’ll have a point to prove.”


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