Former Derry footballer Conleith Gilligan believes that a Tyrone win this Saturday night against Donegal will kickstart a team that haven’t hit form yet this season.
The All-Ireland winner with Ballinderry said that while he feels the Tír Conaill men will improve next year, their Ulster rivals have a greater need to advance to the last eight so that progression is evident under Fergal Logan and Brian Dooher.
“Donegal fans at the moment are a little bit bipolar because three weeks ago they wanted their season to end,” said Gilligan.
“Now they have this renewed vigour and mindset that they can make an All-Ireland quarter-final, so it’s a free hit.”
For the four time All-Ireland winners, the former Kilcoo boss says their inability to change their team and system has led to their inconsistency this season, stating that their overreliance on last year’s U-20 players hasn’t worked.
“Tyrone haven’t been able to follow up on their Sam Maguire win from 2021 but not many teams do.
“There was a huge influx this year of the U-20s that won the All-Ireland championship and the expectation was that these young players would slot in and make Tyrone spark.
“That just hasn’t happened though.
“A problem with Tyrone this year is their familiarity. Twelve players that started this championship campaign were in the exact same position the last day against Westmeath.
“And I expect it to be the same this weekend.
“That’s not good either. You have to shake things up too.”
Gilligan also casts a shadow on the issue of players from 2021 walking away from the panel.
It’s an issue that has followed Logan and Dooher for almost a year now, but Gilligan said it’s not as big of a deal that many want to make of it.
“A lot is made of Tyrone players leaving the panel and they’re badly missed, but they have some of the best young players in the country at the minute on the team too.
“I think it’s gotten to a stage where the management are happier to have the players that are there rather than focusing on the players that aren’t.
“I don’t think it’s as big of a deal in the camp as it is outside the camp.”
On a Donegal front, Gilligan praised the team’s return to form and believes home advantage will have a big bearing on their performance.
“From a Donegal perspective, there is more to be excited about. Everybody knew that if they could get all their players fit, then they’d be a match for anyone,” Gilligan told the Donegal GAA Podcast.
“Aidan O’Rourke and the players took a gamble by getting rid of their manager, they are now playing with renewed confidence, and they’ll bring that to Ballybofey.
“The key here is that we cannot underestimate home advantage.”
Looking towards the match-ups for this game, Gilligan feels that Tyrone have to start Darren McCurry to create more issues for Donegal in the backline if he’s partnered with Darragh Canavan.
This is a call which he believes could be the winning and losing of the game.
“For Tyrone in the forward line, I think Darren McCurry has to play and if Brendan McCole picks him up, then you have to ask are the other defenders good enough to mark Darragh Canavan?
“That’ll be a big issue for Donegal.
“I think overall the away side will just shade it this weekend. Donegal have had a great season but in terms of need and desire I feel Tyrone need to advance here.
“If they don’t win this one, it’s going to be very difficult for them to regroup next season because this is the best team they will have for a long time, so they need this win for a psychological boost if anything.”
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