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Tyrone's UUJ five are chasing degrees of success

 

By John Campbell

The new GAA season may still be in its infancy but for five Tyrone players in particular the past six weeks have been action-packed.

Far from easing themselves into the new campaign, Ronan McNamee, Mark Bradley and Conall McCann, along with the Brennan brothers Rory and Lee, have not so much hit the ground running as engaged overdrive from the outset.

In recent weeks they have served UUJ and Tyrone and the next 10 days will provide them with an even more hectic schedule.

On Sunday they will be in the Red Hands squad that will face Kildare in what is a must-win Allianz League Division One game, then on Tuesday they will line out with UUJ against UCD in the Sigerson Cup semi-final and on the following Saturday they will revert to Tyrone's colours for the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup final against Donegal.

But while the vision of Sigerson Cup glory begins to form on the horizon, it is Sunday's showdown with Kildare that is uppermost in the thoughts of the quintet and their colleagues.

Tyrone will go into the match still seeking their first win in the league having already shipped defeats to Galway and Dublin.

Indeed, if the McKenna Cup competition can be set aside, this means that Mickey Harte's side have lost their last three more important games if the All-Ireland semi-final setback against the Dubs last August is to be factored in.

Somewhat bizarrely, Kildare have an even less distinguished recent track record as they have lost six games in all since they beat Meath in a Leinster Championship semi-final last June.

They have already succumbed to Dublin and Monaghan in the league and go in against Tyrone knowing that defeat could see them facing into a relegation dogfight.

If Tyrone's current plight is rather similar, then manager Harte can take comfort from the way in which his UUJ representatives have been playing.

McNamee, normally a full-back, scored for UUJ against both St Mary's and Limerick, while Lee Brennan's form has helped to hoist him straight into the Tyrone side.

McNamee, whose versatility has surfaced since the start of the year, sees the next week as a big test on all fronts.

"We have Kildare on Sunday and then it's on to the Sigerson Cup semi-final and the McKenna Cup final but we will take one step at a time," he reflects.

"It's vital that we get a win over Kildare to lift morale going into the league break. We will have some difficult matches in the second phase of the competition."

After Sunday's game, Tyrone have still to play Mayo, Kerry, Donegal and Monaghan - an itinerary that will surely ask big questions of Harte's men.

Yet it's the spirit, commitment and flair of their UUJ contingent that could help bolster Tyrone's hopes of turning the corner in the league this weekend with Lee Brennan in particular likely to have another big say.

"We just have to keep working," insists Brennan.

"Nothing comes easy in this league when you are up against the top sides. We'll just take one match at a time."

Even though they have yet to pick up a league point, Tyrone's performances to date have not engendered apprehension. Indeed, there appears to be a feeling that if they get back to winning ways against Kildare then they can make further progress.

But they will find Kildare in resolute mood providing they take their lead from fiery manager Cian O'Neill, who lambasted their efforts in the defeat to Monaghan last weekend.

"The turnovers we surrendered were awful," insists O'Neill.

"We made too many mistakes and we certainly cannot afford to give a repeat performance of this on Sunday."

O'Neill, passionate and diligent, makes it very clear that Sunday's game is an absolutely crucial encounter for his side.

"We made some poor decisions against Monaghan, whether we had the ball or we didn't have the ball; our decision making was awful," stresses O'Neill.

"Even at the end when we were trying to work something we simply made poor decisions; instead of trying to work the ball in we took an opportune shot.

"The fact of the matter is that over the course of the game we had enough opportunities to come out on top but we simply did not take them.

"As a matter of fact I think we had enough chances to win several games."

Belfast Telegraph

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