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Dublin: 2 °C Thursday 17 January, 2019

'Tyrone are probably now as one-dimensional as they have ever been' - McConville

Oisin McConville believes Monaghan will halt Tyrone’s three-in-a-row bid in Ulster this weekend.

OISIN MCCONVILLE HAS tipped Monaghan to defeat Tyrone on Sunday and go on to win their first Ulster title since 2015.

Tyrone are bidding to do provincial three-in-a-row for the first time since McConville achieved the feat with Armagh between 2004 and 2006.

Darren Hughes and Mattie Donnelly Source: James Crombie/INPHO

But the Crossmaglen native feels Mickey Harte’s side have become too “one-dimensional”, while he was also critical of the standard of football in Ulster over the past few years.

“Tyrone-Monaghan is a massive game, akin to Mayo and Galway, that’s how big it is,” McConville said at the launch of RTÉ’s 2018 championship coverage. “Whoever comes out of that will be Ulster champions.

“They have a nice pathway to the latter stages of the championship. But whoever loses that has got a dogfight on their hands. I fancy Monaghan. They’ve used a huge amount of players, more than he (Malachy O’Rourke) has used before.

“Malachy O’Rourke is the one manager who has immediately reacted to the fact that he is going to need a squad as the year goes on. I fancy Monaghan. It’s very difficult to do three in a row because it’s a dogfight.

“A lot of it is fairly negative football and Tyrone are probably now as one-dimensional as they have ever been. They still have super players, they still can tear teams apart as they did when walking through Ulster last year.

The Tyrone team Source: Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

“They have no real outlet now, no physicality up front because Sean Cavanagh is gone. But again, Monaghan-Tyrone is toss of a coin. I’ve a sneaking suspicion Monaghan can turn them over.

“The last three years in Ulster has been a huge disappointment. The quality of football, people have turned off in their droves. Hopefully, that can improve, albeit people are coming back rather than everybody’s raising their game.”

Armagh travel to Brewster Park on Saturday evening to face Rory Gallagher’s Fermanagh in the quarter-final, and McConville believes Kieran McGeeney’s men have enough quality to claim a first Ulster SFC victory since 2014.

Armagh enjoyed a 1-16 to 0-17 victory when the sides met in the recent Division 3 league final, while they drew 0-7 apiece in the Enniskillen two weeks previous to that.

Oisin McConville Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“There’s a real opportunity to win a game in Ulster, that would be a major start which they haven’t done in three years so you don’t want that extending any further,” said McConville. “Fermanagh and Armagh seem really evenly matched.

“There doesn’t seem to be much between them but again it’s a game that you’re looking at and thinking it’s a game that Armagh can realistically win. That would be a starting point.

“You have Tyrone (or) Monaghan (in the semi-final) which again is really tough but that’s who you want to be gauging yourself against. It’s a big shock to the system going to Croke Park to play Tyrone last year and getting absolutely hockeyed.”

The Orchard County enjoyed a run to the All-Ireland quarter-final last year before losing heavily to Tyrone at Croke Park.

High-profile players Jamie Clarke, Oisin O’Neill, Stefan Campbell, James Morgan and Ciaran O’Hanlon all left the squad over the winter, but despite those departures, they secured promotion to Division 2 this spring.

Andrew Murnin and Daniel Teague scuffle during the game Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“We didn’t miss them in Division 3. I saw most of their games, they coped capably. Ethan Rafferty, Rory Grugan and Andrew Murnin up front worked as a nice little triangle, but is that going to be enough when you are coming up against the better teams?

“You need more of a scoring threat than that. Armagh, there is a  potential there to shut down those couple of players and when you do, where else do the scores come from. Niall Grimley has come in, he’s missed bits and pieces of the league but he’s a plus.”

“Do you play him in the middle of the field or do you play him in the half-forward line?. Realistically it would be great if we could release him to the half-forward line, give another great option, another scoring threat and he works hard up and down the line as well.

“They’ve sucked up the loss of those players but they are still quality players and they’re still going to be missed.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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