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Tyrone McCann urges troubled Tyrone to remain calm

By Declan Bogue

Tyrone's Tiernan McCann stood on the Pairc MacCumhail turf and appeared for all the world to be shell-shocked at the 70-odd minutes that had just unfolded.

For the fifth time in the last six meetings, Donegal had beaten Tyrone, but this time was perhaps right up there with the 2013 Championship game at the same venue in terms of the control the home side exerted on the match.

Back then, Donegal were relegated from Division One on the final league game of the season while Tyrone went on to push Dublin hard in the final. Their Championship tie was decided by goals from Ross Wherity and Colm McFadden, but at least Tyrone scored seven points from play that day (2-10 to 0-10). On Sunday, they managed only two.

Manager Mickey Harte said afterwards: "It was as bad a performance as I've been involved in with the Tyrone team over all the time that I've been involved - at any level and at any age."

It echoed comments he made after their crushing defeat to Kerry in Killarney last year.

From a player's perspective, McCann said: "We have a lot of work to do."

Referring to Tyrone's baffling dips in form, he continued: "We have shown so much inconsistency. We go to Dublin, put in a good performance, go to Mayo, put in a good performance. It seems when we're up against it we seem to do well.

"But we didn't deliver whatsoever, and it's going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of looking hard at ourselves for six weeks."

Inconsistency is one thing in itself, but an unpalatable truth is that Tyrone have not come any closer to solving how to play against Donegal. After their opening day defeat, they appeared to adopt a defensive lockdown system that had Donegal in mind.

After it blew up spectacularly, McCann insisted that they have to maintain patience.

"We have to just keep going with the system," he said. "Because it didn't work here, doesn't mean it can't work the rest of the year. They just seemed to come straight through us a number of times."

Admitting that they decided to hold a mirror up to Donegal, the Killyclogher man went on: "It was exactly what we're trying to implement for Tyrone, but it just didn't seem to work for us."

The 23-year-old also spoke of the weight of expectation placed upon the team from a Tyrone public hungry for success. A certain frustration can be detected.

"It's hard to replicate what the teams before us have done, but we're not trying to let anybody down, we're just going out to represent our families, our clubs, our county," he said.

"It didn't work, but we have plenty of time to put it right. It's going to take a long number of sessions up at Garvaghey in the wind and rain to correct what happened, or what didn't happen."

A question about the absence of Sean Cavanagh from the starting line-up opened up another question of the lack of leadership, with McCann replying: "He's our leader, he's our 200 appearances man, but we can't keep going back to the same people.

"There's a group of lads there, and we need to step up, it's about time we stepped up, and we're trying to. We're doing our best."

Like his manager, McCann also believed at the final whistle that defeat had condemned them to the relegation trapdoor. Instead, their destination is still in their hands if they can beat Kerry by two points in Sunday's do-or-die clash at Healy Park, Omagh, following their defeat to Monaghan.

However, McCann recalls: "A couple of years ago we had a chance of putting Kerry down, and we failed. They beat us by a point after we were leading at half time.

"Kerry are the reigning All-Ireland champions, they have played some fantastic league games this year, so that's another challenge for us."

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