If Tyrone overcome the challenge of Sligo, it’ll be the 10th time in 13 seasons they’ve made at least a quarter-final under Mickey Harte. Throw into the mix his three All-Ireland titles in that period and you’ve got incredible consistency. Considering it’s with a county that often struggled to turn provincial success into All-Ireland success and you have a record that stands up to virtually anyone in the history of gaelic games.
Mick O’Dwyer, Brian Cody, Sean Boylan – all the great managers of the modern era – Mickey deserves to be mentioned in the same bracket. Not only has he enjoyed great success, but he’s rebuilt the team two or three times over the years – never really sacrificing having a competitive team for long-term benefits for any great length of time.
One thing common to the great managers of GAA is how they tell you it’s down to the players. They never take the credit even though it’s their ability to manage the egos, enforce discipline and maintain the morale of the team that lays the foundations for the success. Mickey clearly commands respect from his squad and that comes about from loyalty and honesty. That’s good man-management.
One of the skills that’s more specific to him is how he embraced the back door. While others may have been crying foul about how tough it was to recover from provincial disappointment and playing back to back games in the qualifiers, he just got his team right for the next day out. More often than not, they reached the All-Ireland series as a dangerous team to meet. That’s the way it is this year again.
Colm’s Saturday Double: Tyrone -8 pts & Galway both to win – 11/2
Colm’s Sunday Double: Dublin -14 pts & Kildare +6 pts both to win – 3/1
Tyrone v Sligo
Saturday 4pm, Sky Sports 1
After being forced to go the qualifier route, Tyrone are going well. They’ve beaten Meath and followed that up with a very good win over an emerging Tipperary side. Sligo are trying to recover from the utter humiliation of the Connacht final. Tyrone are generally defensive so they don’t tend to rack up big totals, but against Tipp we saw more emphasis on attack. This will be a big win for Tyrone and they’ll cover the eight point handicap.
Donegal v Galway
Saturday 6pm, Sky Sports 1
The odds tell us that Donegal are the favourites but that feels like an uneasy tag. After the Ulster final, they have to do without Karl Lacey and Michael Murphy’s fitness is a concern. The look like a team in decline in contrast to Galway who look very much like an improving young team. The win against Armagh showed some steel and the big pitch at Croke Park will suit their younger, faster team. It’s set up for the Tribesmen to cause an upset.
Kerry v Kildare
Sunday 2pm, RTE2
It’s strange to say it about the defending champions, but this version of Kerry are not as good as a lot of the teams they’ve had in recent years. I don’t see them as true All-Ireland contenders and Kildare are the bet. The Kingdom might still have too much for the Lillywhites but I’ll be taking Kildare on the handicap.
Kerry haven’t been creating many goal chances and Kildare will set up to ensure that remains the same this week. I’ll have a nibble at Niall Kelly (9/1) and Alan Smith (10/1) to be First Goalscorer.
Dublin v Fermanagh
Sunday 4pm, RTE2
Fermanagh have come back strong after losing to Monaghan in the Ulster semi-final and they restrict teams from scoring heavily with their sweeper system. Dublin struggled to break down Westmeath and they’ll find a similar task waiting ahead of them on Sunday, especially early on. There’s no chance of Fermanagh winning this, but there’s a chance they’ll make it difficult for the Dubs. With that in mind, Jim Gavin will get his team to go out and try to kill this one off early and if they get that goal in the first 15 minutes, they’ll easily cover the handicap. Bernard Brogan at 4/1 is my First Goalscorer bet.