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Dublin: 5 °C Thursday 23 January, 2020

Mulligan suggests Omagh pitch was narrowed for the Dubs to get Tyrone ready for Ballybofey

Tyrone are getting set for a crunch tie in Ballybofey on Sunday.

OWEN MULLIGAN HAS raised the prospect that the pitch in Omagh was narrowed for Tyrone’s last Super 8s game against Dublin, in order to ready them for Sunday’s showdown in Ballybofey against Donegal.

Tyrone take to the field Tyrone players run out at Healy Park before their clash with Dublin. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Tyrone travel to face Donegal, knowing they will advance to the All-Ireland semi-finals if they avoid defeat in their last group stage game.

Mickey Harte denied he had any influence over the dimension of the Healy Park pitch for their recent clash, claiming it was a request from Sky. The broadcaster subsequently refuted the assertion of the Tyrone boss.

Ahead of Sunday’s huge match, Mulligan is concerned about Tyrone’s ability to claim the positive result they require.

“This game is huge for Tyrone, absolutely massive,” stated Mulligan, a Paddy Power GAA ambassador.

“The whispers doing the rounds in the county are that Omagh’s pitch wasn’t narrowed for the Dubs, but to reflect the size of Ballybofey’s pitch. That will tell you how big this game is.

“It’s going to be a tight one. Ballybofey isn’t an easy place to go, it’ll be hostile. They’re the Ulster Champions at the end of the day. Tyrone are yet to beat a Division 1 team in the championship and that’s a big worry for me.

General view of MacCumhail Park MacCumhaill Park hosts Sunday's game. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“We’ve been beaten by Monaghan, we’ve been beaten by Dublin and now we have a must win game against Donegal.

“We’ve had a lot of injuries. I don’t think Ronan McNamee is going to feature. We know Cathal McCarron’s out. They’d have been the boys to look after Michael Murphy. I don’t think we have the personnel to nullify him without them.

“I think Donegal will mirror Dublin’s style the last day in taking out the ball winners and the big players such as Peter Harte, Mattie Donnelly and Niall Sludden.

“Dublin targeted those three lads and made it difficult for us to supply them with enough ball. Only four forwards scored from play against Dublin and that’s crazy considering the scores we were racking up before that and you’re not going to win big games with that kind of a return.”

Tyrone fell to a three-point loss to Dublin but substitute Ronan O’Neill kicked a free wide at a juncture when there was two points separating the teams. Mulligan feels Harte must take the blame for having withdrawn Connor McAliskey.

“I personally always thought that you can carry a free-taker. I don’t think Connor McAliskey should’ve been taken off no matter how bad a game he’s having. He’s still our top scorer.

“It was only twenty-five yards out and you had a man coming on fresh without kicking a ball and grabbing it straight away to take it? Someone should’ve told him to calm down and take his time.

Ronan O’Neill misses a late free Ronan O'Neill's free went off target against Dublin late on. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“McAliskey really should’ve been kept on so Mickey Harte needs to take a bit of the blame for that.”

Mulligan has dismissed Kerry’s chances of being All-Ireland contenders.

“To be honest Kerry are being judged on past teams and are been blown up due to past teams. They beat a rubbish Cork team and struggled against the two Division 1 teams they played. I really don’t think they’re contenders.

“They should be out of the championship. I don’t think they’re anywhere near the finished article. It’s far too soon for them.”

Both sets of players react to the final whistle Kerry and Monaghan players react after their clash in Clones. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

And the Tyrone attacking great has labelled football ‘boring’ as the championship has been overshadowed by a series of thrilling hurling encounters.

“Hurling is the best sport in the world and that was proved at the weekend. They’re just warriors, there are 30 warriors out on that field. The ref lets everything go, there’s no diving, there’s no blanket defence, they just go hell for leather.

“You talk about the world cup and how that was the highlight of the summer….blah, blah, blah. But this is unbelievable, you’re on the edge of your seat for the whole match and the new system has done wonders for it.

“You only have to look at some of the football teams going out, including my own county, dropping 14 and 15 back and it’s gotten boring. It’d break your heart.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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