This is our biggest challenge yet, says Tyrone boss Mickey
Don't be surprised if Tyrone step up a gear against Kildare in Sunday’s All Ireland football quarter final in Croke Park.
Until now they have been motoring along nicely, but they still feel they have something to prove.
Three All Irelands in eight years is a fair haul by any standards, but to be regarded as a great side this squad is convinced they must win back-to-back All Irelands.
Manager Mickey Harte’s more immediate concern is with overcoming Kildare.
Nailing down back-to-back All Irelands would raise Tyrone up there with some of the finest sides ever to lift Sam.
It’s the first championship meeting between Tyrone and Kildare and Harte, ever the pragmatist, insists that nothing less than Tyrone’s best will suffice.
He said: “We will require a more consistent 70 minutes if we’re to beat Kildare.
“At various stages in all three of our games we’ve played reasonably well.”
The last time the Red Hand county reached the last eight as provincial champions they were beaten by Meath and Harte knows the real championship begins now when there are no longer any safety nets when you lose.
“Croke Park is the place to be at this time of the year and it’s when we normally play our best football, but like every other county we’ve had our bad days there as well.
“People have said this is Kildare’s All Ireland final, but it’s our All Ireland final too for we cannot afford to lose or we’re out.
“I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen of Kildare this season.
“Kieran McGeeney has done a good job with them and they are a hard working, developing side who have a great physical presence. They pushed Dublin all the way in the Leinster final so Kildare aren’t that far away,” he said.
Spare a thought for Tyrone keeper John Devine who will miss the game after dislocating his shoulder in training.
Pascal McConnell steps into the breach with Jonathan Curran on the bench.
Midfielder Enda McGinley, who didn’t start the Ulster final because of a hamstring injury, continues to be a major concern.
Kildare manager McGeeney will have to plan for Sunday’s match without defender Mikey Conway.
The uncompromising corner back was carried off at half-time in Kildare’s qualifying victory over Wicklow last Saturday.
McGeeney, though, still believes that the Lily Whites are becoming a more consistent championship outfit.
“It’s our second quarter-final in two seasons and it’s good to see there’s now a level of consistency there.”
Reflecting on his team’s hard earned win over Wicklow he added: “We played well against Dublin in the Leinster final and still had nothing to show at the end of it all.
“It was important that we got back to winning ways. Our substitutions appeared to give us an extra bit of freshness and pace near the end and that made all the difference. But Tyrone with all their experience will be a totally different proposition.”