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Are the Tyrone footballers the masters of the backdoor route?

Are Tyrone at it again? Tyrone have previously skipped through the back door taking scalps and silverware. Here we look at Tyrone’s stunning qualifiers record.

Can Mickey Harte lead Tyrone to September glory again?
Can Mickey Harte lead Tyrone to September glory again?
Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

THE FACTS AND figures prove that Tyrone are the ultimate back door team. Since the mid 90′s, Tyrone have possessed talented footballers.

But they have the temperament for summer too. Digging out victories, surviving tricky tests, just being winners.

Twenty three back door matches, 19 victories, one draw, and three defeats confirms how adept Tyrone have been in the qualifiers. Here we trace through how Tyrone have done every time they have been forced to go this route.

2002

These were more innocent times. Tyrone’s panel was stocked with All Ireland underage medalists, but they were viewed as a team with potential. A couple of seasoned performers were there for guidance, but Armagh had too much for them in the Ulster quarter.

Tyrone appeared to be generating momentum as Wexford, Leitrim, and Derry were all fended off. Sligo, though, had a dreamy day at Croke Park and took Tyrone’s scalp. Not long after a certain Mickey Harte assumed the role as Tyrone senior team manager. Things would never be the same again.

2004

The reigning All Ireland champions came unstuck in a fascinating Ulster semi-final at Clones. Donegal summoned a courageous performance to beat Tyrone, who briefly impressed in the qualifiers. Down were taken care of as were Galway. Then Laois were blitzed and Tyrone ventured into the quarter finals feeling good about themselves again.

Mayo, though, were all heart and honesty causing a mild 0-16 to 1-9 surprise. Suddenly the race for Sam opened up with Kerry the chief beneficiaries.

Mayo’s Ciaran McDonald
Pic: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

2005

Armagh and Tyrone’s stock was high now. Tyrone outfoxed Down and Cavan in Ulster and then in a gripping provincial decider with Armagh parity prevailed at Croke Park. Headquarters was the venue for the replay, which Armagh shaded. Tyrone had a fourth round qualifier with Monaghan a fortnight after and they won comfortably.

Matches were coming thick and fast, a drawn quarter final with Dublin was followed with an epic replay triumph. Revenge was served against Armagh and then Kerry were defeated in September. This will always be regarded as one of the greatest All Ireland successes ever, for the drama factor alone.

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte and captain Brian Dooher
Pic: INPHO/ Tom Honan

2006

Derry beat Tyrone in the Ulster quarter final. It was like 2004 all over again for Tyrone. The standard bearers were stunned. In the qualifiers Tyrone drew with Louth in Navan, but won the replay in Omagh.

Laois at O’Moore Park was a match destroyed by wretched conditions, but Mick O’Dwyer pocketed a notable scalp. Tyrone’s title defence terminated on July 8.

2008

This was a Tyrone summer campaign that raged from start to finish. A draw with Down in Ulster. The replay was a cracker, it went the distance with Down advancing by the minimum. What happened then? Tyrone coped with Louth. Westmeath caused them problems in Omagh, but Tyrone hung on in there.

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It was similar against Mayo and Tyrone were in the quarter finals. The Dublin hurdle was cleared there and Tyrone had too much for Wexford at the penultimate stage.

The final was gripping. Just when it looked as if Kerry had Tyrone on the ropes, the Red Hands came swinging back. Harte schemed on the line and Sam went north again.

Kerry’s Killian Young and Tyrone’s Brian Dooher
Pic: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

2011

The year of the Dubs. Donegal took out Tyrone in Ulster so they had to try to reinvent themselves on the back door Saturdays. Longford in Pearse Park was awkward, but Tyrone won. Armagh were beaten by a couple of goals as was Roscommon’s spirited resistance.

Were Tyrone going to do it again? Dublin were a more savvy team compared to previous years and Tyrone suffered in the quarter final.

2012

Gaining in confidence Donegal beat Tyrone in the Ulster semi-final so Tyrone were forced to go the off Broadway route. Tyrone cruised to a convincing victory over Roscommon, but then a third round qualifier in Killarney awaited with Kerry.

The bluebloods refused to lose on home turf to a county that had given them so many scary days over a decade as Kerry emerged safe and secure 1-16 to 1-6 victors.

2013

An All Ireland quarter final beckons. Harte has plotted another interesting journey. The stops on the road brought different challenges. Offaly might have examined others, but Tyrone blitzed a depleted and demoralised Faithful.

The Hyde was next. Roscommon were fiery, but Tyrone remained cool despite all the locals’ guts and grit. Kildare next, qualifier specialists themselves – Tyrone had sufficient guile to get out of Newbridge. The pace quickened, Croke Park the most recent instalment.

Meath, harkening back to the days of yore, came to the capital with a throaty crowd accompanying them, but Sean Cavanagh was immense steering Tyrone over the line. Monaghan are on Tyrone minds now.

Tyrone’s Darren McCurry.
Pic: INPHO/James Crombie

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