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GAA stars call the Ulster final

Barry Mulrone, Fermanagh

It’s going to be an interesting one for sure. What I’ve noticed so far is how well conditioned they are. The speed and strength of both teams is ridiculous.

It’s a new experience for a lot of the players in both teams who will be making their first Ulster final appearance, and on the other hand you have the likes of Mattie Donnelly, Peter Harte and Niall Morgan who have a major amount of experience. Likewise on the Monagahan team you have the excellent Conor McManus, Rory Beggan and Ryan Wylie who’ve all done it in Ulster.

The winning of the game will be in how well both teams do on their own kick-outs. They’ve become an integral part of the game and you don’t get much better than the two on show.

Hampsey will need a big game on McManus and you’d imagine Ryan Wylie will be looking after Darren McCurry for the day.

Monaghan have the experience in midfield with Darren Hughes and Niall Kearns. If they have big games I think Monaghan have enough to get over the line. I can’t see there being more than a point or two either way though.

But if we get something similar to the two semi-finals we’re in for a treat.

Gerard Collins, Down

I expect this game to go to the wire and wouldn’t be surprised if it ends all square but I’ll go with Tyrone by a point or two.

I reckon there could be a goal fest in this one with the impact of the Tyrone bench getting them over the line.

The Conor McManus versus Ronan McNamee battle will be the key one to look out for.

Paul McFlynn, Derry

Monaghan will have taken a lot of confidence from their semi-final, particularly in the manner by which they won it. However, they know that they need to improve defensively and I expect we will see this improvement.

Tyrone will also have taken great confidence from they way they played against Donegal. They were very impressive going forward, particularly when on the counter-attack. Monaghan will need to curb the influence of Kieran McGeary and Niall Sludden, who kicked 0-6 between them from play. Obviously Darren McCurry will get close attention and if he were continue his rich vein of form in the final and Mattie Donnelly produces what he is capable of, it would be difficult to see anything other than a Tyrone win. However, Monaghan will feel they have the man markers in Ryan Wylie and co. to restrict Tyrone’s danger men.

Similarly, at the other end, Tyrone know that they need big games from their full-back line to restrict the influence of McManus and McCarron. Séamus McEnaney knows that unlike Armagh, Tyrone will not leave their full-back line exposed and will need much more from their half-forwards in this game if they are to get the win.

Darren Hughes is a real leader for Monaghan and a player who always seems to perform on the big day. If he can produce a big game, Monaghan’s chances of a victory will greatly increase. I expect a cagey opening and unlike both semi-finals, which were high scoring affairs, scores will be harder to come by in this game. Tyrone by two.

Dermot Molloy, Donegal

I personally think Tyrone are coming into this Ulster final in pole position to overcome this Monaghan challenge. Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan have brought a new style of play to this squad of players. The biggest change I’ve seen from this Tyrone side is their brand of kicking the ball more now on their transition from defence to attack. It’s worked well and for me they have got a better balance with their running game. McGeary, Sludden, Meyler, Mattie Donnelly have been impressive with their transition in their offensive play and the mixture of kicking it more now is very tough for teams to counteract.

Darren McCurry is having his best year in a Tyrone jersey. He is a focal point for the Tyrone attack. He’s been given license to stay up at all times and when you’re a forward and a score-getter like Darren the last thing you want to be doing is tracking back and trying to turn over ball. He’s fresh at all times when Tyrone is on the attack and they have got this balance right.

Monaghan had a very business-like performance against Fermanagh in the quarter final and the Armagh game was one of those classic games that don’t come around very often, especially in the Ulster Championship. Their pace and ability to break the lines is something Tyrone will need to pay attention to.

Conor McManus is still the main man within this Monaghan set-up. His game management towards the end of the game for me is the main reason Monaghan have landed themselves back into the final. Monaghan conceded way too much against Armagh and with Tyrone’s running game and the power they possess, this could be a vital formula to the winning of the game for Tyrone.

I still feel Tyrone need to mix it up with both kicking and running game to keep Monaghan honest. If Monaghan can get their defensive structure set up to frustrate Tyrone and keep the scoreboard ticking at the other end of the pitch, Monaghan will be right in touch with them. I just feel Tyrone, even with their new management only a few months in, are further down the track in terms of their conditioning and their mental ability to win games. There is a tight final in store. Tyrone’s bench should make the difference.

Ricky Johnston, Antrim

I feel both teams will start defensive but eventually it could open up in the second half. If Conor McManus and Jack McCarron have their usual games Monaghan will be in with a chance. Equally, if Darren McCurry is on form for Tyrone along with Cathal McShane, whether he starts or comes off the bench, he can change the game.

Tyrone to edge it, they have a lot of strength and depth in their squad to see them over the line.

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