DUST down the WJ Dolan replica jerseys and chuck the laundry in the wash – the All-Ireland final is just around the corner… right?
Tyrone fans generally don’t reach for the sick bucket when contemplating our nearest, dearest Monaghan, and our golden generation of players held a similarly irreverent attitude towards their neighbours.
In a podcast with Off the Ball last summer, Joe McMahon and Brian McGuigan indicated that they were never spooked by the Farney County during their long and illustrious playing careers.
McMahon took succour from his belief that Ulster Championship was the alpha and omega of Monaghan’s ambitions, and their tentative ventures across the Black Pig’s Dyke invariably ended in disaster.
The Red Hands came out on top of intriguing/noxious (delete as appropriate) quarter-finals in 2013 and 2015 – Tiernan McCann and Sean Cavanagh sparking outrage across the nation – while Dublin swatted them aside in forgettable last-eight encounters in 2014 and 2017.
But Malachy O’Rourke’s side can no longer be accused of having a small-town mentality and stand 70-odd minutes away from a place in the All-Ireland final for only the second time in their history.
They’ve already notched up two victories against Tyrone this season in both league and championship, and likely would’ve completed a clean sweep in the ‘Super Eights’ only for a last-ditch invention from Kerry wonder boy David Clifford.
Galloping up the inside, however, are a Tyrone team which has come on in leaps and bounds over the course of the championship.
Whether by accident or design, Mickey Harte seems to have concocted a winning formula of unleashing his substitutes when the fat is in the fire – a method which paid off handsomely in their first championship win over Donegal in Ballybofey since 1973 on Sunday.
Ulster football got its usual kicking after a dour first-half, but even Tyrone’s biggest detractors couldn’t fail to be impressed by their second-half blitzkrieg in Ballybofey, outscoring their opponents by 2-7 to 0-2 in the final twenty minutes.
Mickey Harte’s side only mustered 34 tackles in their Ulster Championship defeat to Monaghan, but they’ve upped their intensity tenfold and produced a mammoth 57 tackles against Donegal, which is a record total in this year’s championship.
They’ve a seven-day turnaround to produce the same again, and while the match is unlikely to be a work of art, it should be enthralling from start to finish.
FULL PREVIEW IN THIS WEEK’S ULSTER HERALD