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Waiting game won't faze Red Hands ahead of All Ireland quarter-final, says Tyrone star

 

By John Campbell

Tyrone wing-back Tiernan McCann insists the Red Hands are resigned to playing a waiting game in the build-up to their All-Ireland Senior Football Championship quarter-final.

Tyrone will not know the identity of their opponents until the weekend after next when the outcome of the Armagh v Kildare and Down v Monaghan games should become clear.

The two winners of those games will then be drawn to face Tyrone or Dublin in the last two quarter-finals on Saturday, August 5, with Roscommon and Kerry meeting the two Round 4A winners in the first two last-eight ties on Sunday, July 30.

The Red Hands resumed training on Tuesday night following the lively celebrations that marked their second successive Ulster title triumph on Sunday and McCann believes that the challenge for the players now is to take things to the next level.

"The difficult thing is that we will have only one more week in which to prepare for our quarter-final after we know who our opponents will be," reflected McCann. "That proved a tricky thing last year because we did not know who we were going to be up against until a matter of days before the game."

In the event, Tyrone were defeated by Mayo but proved the authors of their own misfortune to a large extent through a combination of poor shooting and picking the wrong options.

"I suppose you could say that we did not have a lot of time to focus in on our opponents on that occasion, but I think this time round we can use our experience from last year and prepare extremely well for what I think will be a very big challenge no matter who we will be facing," maintained McCann.

Tyrone, though, will certainly relish making their return to Headquarters, a venue at which they have enjoyed phenomenal success as well as helpings of heartbreak since Mickey Harte took over as manager in the latter end of 2002.

"The wide open spaces are very inviting, but whoever we are up against are likely to think the same way about playing there so we have to be ready for this test," said McCann.

"Having said that, we are delighted to be going there to compete in the last eight of the All-Ireland series."

McCann starkly spells out how the level of competition for starting places has already been intensified.

"We always say to the six substitutes that are used in any game to go out there and make an impact, and to be fair that is what has been happening," he pointed out.

"We have a really strong panel - it is worth remembering that there are players in there who did not make the 26-strong match-day squad for the Ulster final but would have done a job for us had they got the chance."

Declan McClure is now very much in the running for a starting slot in the quarter-final, as is Ronan O'Neill.

O'Neill's two superbly-taken goals helped copper-fasten the Ulster title win and have sharpened his appetite for a helping of action at Headquarters.

McCann, meanwhile, believes that the Red Hands are better prepared for their assault on the All-Ireland title this year.

"Obviously we were very disappointed to lose out to Mayo in the manner in which we did last year and we want to atone for that this time round if we can," he stressed.

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