MARTIN McHugh believes a rejuvenated Tyrone could have a big say in both the Ulster and All-Ireland series in 2021.
Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher are on board as the Red Hands’ new management team. Mickey Harte’s 18-year tenure at the helm there has finally come to an end.
And with Joe McMahon and Peter Donnelly also part of that reshuffle, McHugh expects Donegal’s fiercest rival to bring something different to the championship table this term.
Donegal have had things mostly their own way inside the province since Declan Bonner came back on board in 2018. But at this moment, they’re licking their Anglo Celt wounds following that huge Cavan upset back in November.
1992 All-Ireland winner McHugh expects Tyrone to switch to a more attack-minded approach, given the potential offered by former AFL star Conor McKenna and Darragh Canavan.
And the imminent return of All-Star full-forward Cathal McShane from injury adds to the potency of what could be a hugely effective offensive unit.
Looking back and indeed forward, McHugh says that despite winning two of the last three Ulster titles, Donegal will feel that they’ve left some big days out in Croke Park behind them.
“I suppose the disappointing thing is that the last three years we’ve had chances to get to an All-Ireland semi-final,” he said. “But this year, there is no doubt Tyrone are going to be a huge threat.
“They’re going to get a bounce out of the new management. They’re going to have Cathal McShane back and he’s a brilliant player.
“Conor McKenna, he’s going to have had the time to settle in now and he’s going to be even better in 2021. Midfield is an area they’ve definitely struggled in. They don’t have a natural midfielder.
“But if Colm Cavanagh comes back, he could make a difference there. People will say he’s not a midfielder or he doesn’t play there but for kick-outs he could make a real impact in that area.”
Donegal themselves have been buoyed by the news that mercurial ace Odhrán MacNiallais is returning to the ranks. But McHugh is still adamant others are going to have to step up to the mark.
He added: “Donegal have Odhrán MacNiallais back. That’s very positive. He’s a very talented lad. He’s missed a fair bit of football. We depend so much on Michael Murphy.
“But we need other players taking the pressure off him. The more players we have that need real marking, the better we’ll be. Even the likes of Ciaran Thompson and Michael Lagan, they showed they’re going to take some watching too.
“That’s what we need against a side like Tyrone. And Odhrán is one of those that needs looking after. But I do feel Tyrone are going to be the team.
“I’m not saying that to deflect or saying it for the sake of saying it. I do really feel they are capable of putting it up to Dublin. If they can sort their midfield issues then they’re going to be a real force to be reckoned with.”