Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Tyrone must bounce back

Tyrone's Sean Cavanagh lies down in pain
Tyrone's Sean Cavanagh lies down in pain

It was a chastened-looking Tyrone team that emerged from the dressing rooms in Healy Park on Sunday.

 

Only a week before, supporters lingered long, glowing with the triumph of humbling All-Ireland champions Donegal.

On Sunday, the crowd in the stand had thinned out to comb over proportions as fans streamed out of the gates long before the final whistle.

A late comeback looked extremely unlikely as the Red Hands failed to score from play from Kyle Coney's point in the 22nd minute.

There were other alarming statistics, but sometimes a performance can be put into perspective with some homespun wisdom. After Mickey Harte had finished his media duties he was approached by a county board member who shook his hand, grinned and said: “We all have days like that.”

After the high of beating Donegal, this was a listless Tyrone performance.

There were worries among supporters before the game that Ronan O'Neill and Kyle Coney were making their first starts of the season in the full-forward line and that it was a bit of a risk, but in the end it was the 16 shots missed from further out the field that cost them along with the miniscule amount of possession they foraged from their own kickouts.

Things can change a lot in a week though, just ask Cork. Seven days previous they were engaged in grand larceny in Newry when they robbed all the points off Down with a goal in the last play of the game from Ciaran Sheehan, but here they were absolutely dominant.

“We've been a driven team this week, had a good session on Thursday night and got a good focus, we said we would come up here together,” said Rebels attacker Paul Kerrigan who enjoyed a physical tussle throughout against Conor Gormley.

He added: “I think our hunger showed today, we were able to go the extra mile for each other.”

On a day that oscillated between swirling snow and sunshine, Tyrone never got into their natural rhythm, a fact acknowledged by Mickey Harte.

“We didn't handle the conditions very well in the first half in that we created some good chances but they seemed to be difficult to put over the bar,” he admitted.

“I was amazed at how Cork seemed to find it easy to put them over.”

Usually, the thing to do in these circumstances is to pore over the DVD and recoil in horror at the break ball stats.

But this was the sort of day that related more to the lack of emotion attached to the occasion.

They should just write it off. One of those days.

The good news is that a dip on a rollercoaster is usually followed by a peak.

On Saturday night they head to Croke Park to meet a Dublin team who are in scalding hot form.

Sean Cavanagh indulged in a little navel-gazing afterwards.

 “Probably to a certain extent we were up for last week's game more than this week,” he said.

“It was a bit of a shock to the system but we are going to have to get our acts together quickly because we are going into the lion's den. Dublin are probably the best team in Ireland at the moment and we are going there next week.

“Down in Croke Park they are extremely difficult to play against but that's exactly why we are in Division One, you get to play against the best teams.

“We have been down there before where people were maybe not expecting us to win and we turned up performances.”

Perhaps what might alarm some in the Tyrone camp is how their record at Croke Park has been on the slide. They haven't won in the Jones Road venue since a tight All-Ireland quarter-final triumph over Kildare in 2009.

The last three league games are all tricky assignments in their own way, with Kerry coming to Omagh on the last day of the season desperate to prove a point to themselves and to the nation. In between times the always-durable Lilywhites will host Tyrone in their compact Newbridge venue.

Still, no need to go reaching for the hammer and smashing glass in case of an emergency, maintains Cavanagh.

“I certainly wouldn't panic yet. We know it still is league football. We set out trying to get safe as such, six points isn't guaranteed to keep us in Division One football and we still have to get another win for another couple of points.

“It's going to be difficult. Dublin, Kildare and Kerry are three of the best sides in Ireland so we know it's going to be all to play for but we can only improve on today's performance.”

Indeed they can. Indeed they will.

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