ONE final big step now beckons for a thriving Tyrone who will aim to improve upon a disappointing recent All-Ireland semi-final record that has seen them lose their last three appearances at this stage of the Sam Maguire race.
But no-one is in any doubt about the significance of this latest quest to reach the All-Ireland Final. It’s a decade since they last challenged directly for the top gaelic footballing honour and there’s a steely determination to make their mark on this occasion.
Standing in their way, of course, is a Monaghan side also aiming to consolidate their progress through the All-Ireland Qualifiers and Super Eights. Nevertheless, there is nothing to fear for the Red Hands as they bid to reclaim the glory days of the past decade.
Back then, Frank Burns of Pomeroy was a youngster following the fortunes of his heroes from the stands and terraces.
Now he’s a central part of the Tyrone defence, having firmly established himself in the position during an impressive season so far in 2018.
He was delighted with the all-important win over Donegal last Sunday in Ballbofey.
However, like the rest of the squad, the Plunketts player is also keenly aware of the need to maintain the momentum back at Croke Park this weekend.
“There’s been a quick week break between the Donegal game and now Monaghan on Sunday. It’s a game that we’ll definitely be looking forward.
“The short break isn’t going to be a big deal because of the way in which the All-Ireland Qualifiers were played each week,” he said.
“We had two weeks then between the Dublin and Donegal games which nearly felt like a long time. There’s no issue with the short break and it’s just great to be back in an All-Ireland semi-final again.
“Last year Tyrone also got to the All-Ireland semi-final and that was as far as we got.
“Obviously getting back there again this year is great because that has been our target since the start of this season.
“I suppose Monaghan will have one over us having beaten us at Omagh in the first round. They’re a team that is very strong, I saw them against Galway in the last game at the weekend and they’re definitely improving.
“They’re a bit like ourselves in the way that they’ve improved this year from last year.
“I think the scenes after our win over Donegal shows what this means to people. I met an older man from Tyrone immediately after the game who said it was the best day of his life.”
More days like that would go nicely indeed for the Red Hand fans and players as they prepare for a second trip to Croke Park in this year’s championship.
No matter what the result, there are sure to be memorable scenes, as these old rivals bid to reach the Sam Maguire showdown against either Dublin or Galway on September 2.
For the moment, though, the full focus for Mickey Harte and the Tyrone players will be this Sunday’s high profile repeat of their Ulster Championship match of earlier in the summer.
On that occasion, a goal just before half-time from Monaghan gave them the platform for victory, and that’s a fate Tyrone will be aiming to avoid in this repeat tie.
Nevertheless, their resiliences has been very apparent during recent games, not least at Ballybofey where the win particularly delighted Frank Burns and his Red Hand teammates.
“It was great coming down to Ballybofey to break their championship record after so many years. We made a bit of history of our own, which was great when you look back at how they got the goal near the end of the first half,” he added.
“Thankfully, we didn’t let our heads down. Everybody was confident that they could come out in the second half and claw that deficit back.
“The lead was started to be clawed back, there was a bit of momentum there and the right players were in the right place to get the two goals.”
FULL PREVIEW IN THIS WEEK’S ULSTER HERALD
Posted: 12:07 pm August 10, 2018