Gormley will help Tyrone hit back, says Harte
Conor Gormley has pocketed a shoal of honours including three All Ireland medals as an ever-present in the Tyrone defence for the best part of the last decade. But right now the Carrickmore clubman finds himself at the helm of operations as the Red Hands prepare to bounce back from unedifying back to back defeats.
With their Barrett Sports Lighting McKenna Cup final setback against Donegal having been followed by that opening round National League reversal against Derry, Mickey Harte’s side urgently requires a fresh injection of confidence although the manager is far from pressing the panic button.
Instead, he believes that Gormley’s leadership as skipper coupled with even keener competition for places in his attack will provide the platform for a more heartening performance against Mayo on Sunday.
“Obviously it’s disappointing to have lost a couple of games but we are finding things out about ourselves as we go along,” says Harte.
“It’s still very early in the season but just the same you don’t want to fall too far back in the league. Mayo beat Galway fairly well on Sunday and they will travel to us with a degree of confidence, I would imagine.”
Even though Derry racked up an impressive 1-18 at Celtic Park, the experienced Gormley, who started the game at centre-half-back but filled the full-back berth
for the most part, emerged as one of the best players on view. He remains an outstanding defender and his vision and craft are certainly pre-requisites for Tyrone’s rehabilitation bid given that Davy Harte, Philip Jordan and Ryan McMenamin are currently still missing from their rearguard.
Like his colleagues, the Tyrone skipper is aware that a failure to obtain an encouraging result against Mayo could impinge on his side’s prospects of remaining in the hunt for the league title.
“We will be at home this time and we have to try and make the most of this advantage if we can. There are no easy matches in Division One, that’s for sure,” maintains Gormley.
While his imposing presence will continue to bolster the defence, the youthful exuberance of Eoin McCusker, a nephew of the legendary Peter Canavan, could yet find himself employed up front to a much greater degree against Mayo.
McCusker was introduced as a second-half substitute against Derry and showed some of his famous uncle’s flair in an impressive session in attack.
Manager Harte is likely to put McCusker under the microscope against Mayo whose 2-14 to 1-10 win over Joe Kernan’s Galway side on Sunday ranked as one of the major surprises of the opening round tie, especially as they had taken a seemingly unassailable lead at one stage.
Mayo manager John O’Mahoney, conscious that his side may not find scoring quite as easy against Tyrone in the more testing environment of Healy Park, has been quick to downplay his team’s opening day coup.
“Look, it’s nothing more than two league points. We are happy to take them, of course, but we have a tough programme ahead of us beginning with Tyrone on Sunday,” insists O’Mahoney who guided Galway to All Ireland title glory in 1998 and 2001. “We know they will be hurting after that loss against Derry and that’s when they could be said to be at their most dangerous.”