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Tyrone are in a dogfight to avoid drop, says Harte

By Declan Bogue

The league table doesn't lie. And when the Tyrone players, management and followers cast their eyes on the standings, they will see a harsh truth after Dublin emerged from Healy Park with full points, following Galway's home win over the Red Hands in the first round.

Two games played, two defeats. Bottom of the table, propping up Kildare and Donegal.

The next two assignments are tricky. This Sunday they are away to Kildare who, just like Tyrone, are desperate for their first points of the campaign.

After a week's break, it's the short jaunt to Clones to be met with a traditional Monaghan welcome. The week after that will be a Saturday night spectacular against Donegal in Healy Park, before a trip to Mayo and then finally on the last weekend of March a home clash with Kerry, who are presently flying high at the top of the table.

Manager Mickey Harte is making no bones about it; this is a dogfight to stay in the top flight.

"You can't brush over that, and we've no points after two games. We have five games now to try and salvage our position in Division One," said Harte.

"There are no guarantees in this sport, we are two games into the National League now, we have only five games left to save our bacon from going down.

"At the start of the league you have seven chances, now we have only five left to pick up enough points to keep us safe so that's a real battle now, a real challenge for us as the season progresses."

Asked if this heaps extra pressure on the team, he sticks to the well-worn process over outcome theory.

"The motivation is to do the best you can in every game you play. We probably didn't do that last week and we got nothing out of it. We played very well on Saturday night and got nothing out of it," said Harte.

"We can only hope we play very well next week and do get something out of it, but that's the challenge before us.

"Unless we play as well as that, we wouldn't be sure of getting anything out of the game. If we can raise ourselves to that standard, we'll be very competitive next week and the weeks after.

"But you know what it's like - it's always easier to raise your standards when you're up against the champions."

Two positives to emerge from Saturday night came with the performance of Lee Brennan - who terrorised Michael Fitzsimons on the way to scoring six points, with three of them from play - and the midfield showing of Cathal McShane up against Brian Fenton (he scored 1-1 in the first five minutes).

Owen Roe's man McShane is not inclined to see it as a crisis situation just yet. He said: "Personally, I wouldn't. It is all about working hard as a team, keeping together and sticking together. It's a matter of getting back to training during the week and working very hard."

Another positive that emerged was the level of physicality brought from Tyrone to the battle, after all the criticism they received in a somewhat meek surrender to Dublin in last August's All-Ireland semi-final.

"When you are playing you just want to try your best and win any ball that comes your way," stated McShane. "You get stuck in and enjoy battles but we are trying to work well together as a team and put our bodies on the line for one another.

With eight second-half wides to Dublin's none in the same period, McShane sees the need to brush up on their shooting.

He added: "We just weren't getting the right men on the ball, the right shooters.

"We have to be more clinical because at times when we missed they came up the field and scored and basically that was the way it was."

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