GAA: Tyrone to make Healy Park advantage count over Mayo

Derry's Mark Lynch and Tyrone's Conan Grugan. ''Mandatory Credit Photo Lorcan Doherty /
Derry's Mark Lynch and Tyrone's Conan Grugan. ''Mandatory Credit Photo Lorcan Doherty /

It may be only the second Sunday in February, but Sunday’s clash between Tyrone and Mayo has quite a lot at stake beyond the two points.

After Round One, Mayo, defeated finalists in the last two All Irelands, travel to Healy Park smarting from an one point reversal at the hands of Kildare.

For Tyrone, a point at Celtic Park was probably just reward, but Mickey Harte will know his team cannot afford to drop points at home especially with games away to Kildare and Kerry around the corner.

The teams last met at the semi final stage of the All Ireland series back in late August and on that day it was the Westerners who came out on top on a 1-16 to 0-13 scoreline.

However, Tyrone have an excellent league record against the Mayo men in recent years and they will be hoping to continue that trend before a packed house at Healy Park this weekend.

While Tyrone have brushed aside all before them in the preseason McKenna Cup, Celtic Park was a rude awakener.

It was a great learning experience and it will take time for this particular Tyrone team to find their feet against the more experienced sides.

While Harte will be happy with the return from his forward division, 2-12, it is in defence and midfield where early problems have surfaced.

With the towering Aidan O’Shea lining out at centre field, Mayo will be hoping that they can build a platform from which they can starve a potent Tyrone forward line of quality possession to turn into scores.

In recent years Tyrone have lost quite a few battles at centre field and still come out on top at the final whistle.

Moy clubman Colm Cavanagh returned to action at Celtic Park and helped turn the tide for a while in this most crucial sector of the field.

It is likely that Harte will give Cavanagh a starting place this Sunday as he did enjoy success against O’Shea in Croke Park.

In defence, the Tyrone boss will not be happy that his rearguard conceeded 1-15 against Derry. Indeed, the Oak Leaf county would be seen by many as one of the weaker sides in the Division and to tally up 16 scores on a miserable night for forwards is a major worry.

Tyrone are moving in the right direction. The McKenna Cup run has raised expectations, victory over Mayo would give this new look Tyrone team a sound platform to build upon.