Owen Mulligan: Tyrone great says Red Hands can shock Donegal (2024)

Owen Mulligan: Tyrone great says Red Hands can shock Donegal (1)Image source, Inpho

John Haughey

BBC Sport Northern Ireland

  • Published

Tyrone great Owen Mulligan believes his native county will beat Donegal in Sunday's Ulster Football semi-final at Celtic Park.

Donegal's hugely impressive win over three-in-a-row seeking Derry means Jim McGuinness' side are hot favourites to account for the Red Hands.

However Mulligan says curtailing Ryan McHugh's effectiveness can be the route to a surprise Tyrone triumph.

"I would like to see Michael McKernan following him [McHugh] everywhere he goes," Mulligan told BBC Sport Northern Ireland.

"I would like to see that battle. McHugh would have to think about McKernan. After all he [McKernan] scored three points from play against Cavan himself.

"I expect a full blooded contest but I fancy Tyrone to come out on top and get to the Ulster Final."

'I don't see a stuffing coming'

Irrespective of who wins, Mulligan is convinced it will be a close game and thinks it could prove a particularly combative contest.

"I’ve seen too much football to know that this is not going to be a walkover for Donegal.

"It’s going to be a point or two in it. I don’t see a stuffing coming even though I know Donegal are hot favourites.

"I think it will be hot and heavy. Donegal and Tyrone have great respect for each other but when they cross the white line it’s been hot and heavy at times."

Mulligan also scoffs at the suggestion Tyrone won't have enough in the tank to compete with Donegal after needing extra time to see off Cavan last Sunday.

"I don’t buy into all that talk about how tired Tyrone are going to be after the extra time last weekend.

"There are enough young players there who will be thrilled to get out in another Ulster Championship game.

"They are a young team and they are rebuilding again. It just shows you the trust [Brian] Dooher has in them. That pays off because as a young player, you are thinking to yourself, ‘this manager is trusting us to do a job…we’ll go out and do it’."

Image source, Inpho

Mulligan acknowledges that Tyrone will "have to get their match-ups right" but believes they have the personnel to do this.

After missing last weekend's Cavan game because of an injury he sustained last month, Conn Kilpatrick has been named on the Tyrone bench and Mulligan will not be surprised to see the midfielder taking his place in the starting line-up.

"You probably need him to take on Jason McGee, who was so good against Derry.

"Brian Kennedy and Conn Kilpatrick are two of the best midfielders in the country on their day. We definitely need them to try and cancel out the Donegal midfield because that’s seems to be what Donegal’s whole catapult is.

"They don’t even go for the catch, they go for the palm down [from the kickout]. We need to challenge them in that midfield area."

The Cookstown man adds that an effective Tyrone game plan is going to have to include their attackers charging back into their own half to challenge Donegal men breaking at pace following turnovers.

"They have to pick up their men and follow their men when they break out. The Tyrone forwards have a tendency to maybe shy away from tackling but when the going gets tough, that’s when you really need to knuckle down.

'Donegal break in fives and sixes'

"Donegal don’t break in twos and threes...they break in fives and sixes and they complete the run right through to the other forward line.

"But I watched the Donegal and Derry game back again and I’ve seen wee snippets of what Tyrone can do.

"Tyrone have got to follow their men. In the league against the likes of the bigger teams, Tyrone didn’t do that and got punished by goals. But in the second half against Mayo, they were excellent and that’s the way they need to play."

Mulligan also believes that Ethan Doherty and Paul Cassidy's long-range point-taking against Donegal is something the Tyrone management will have noted.

"They will take a big plus from Donegal conceding 17 points, long-distance shooting seemed to be an Achilles heel for Donegal last weekend because Ethan Doherty got four from 35 yards out and Paul Cassidy got two points.

"Also I think Joe Oguz should definitely start on Sunday because he changed the game last weekend when he came on. His physicality could be very useful for Tyrone and I would like to see him with Kennedy and Conn in the midfield sector."

Oguz has been named in the Tyrone starting line-up although he was also initially picked to start against Cavan before Liam Gray, who went on to hit the Red Hands' goal, was instead preferred.

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