Win or bust for Tyrone, claims Penrose
In what has been an extremely disappointing National Football League campaign to date from Tyrone’s perspective there have been few positives to provide manager Mickey Harte with comfort for the forthcoming championship season.
Perhaps the return of Sean Cavanagh to top-flight action after injury, the consistency of Aidan Cassidy at midfield, and the artistic skills unveiled by Raymond Mulgrew since his return to the side from UUJ could be viewed as rays of sunlight in what has been a gloomy narrative.
Even more significantly, the contribution of Martin Penrose in attack has been such that he has continually left a solid imprint in each game in which he has participated.
Yet while the Aghyaran clubman has been knocking up the scores, he is hoping that he can have his biggest input so far when he lines out against Kerry tomorrow night at Healy Park, Omagh (7.30pm).
With Tyrone fighting for their Division One lives and Kerry anxious to enhance their chances of winning the title even though they have leeway to make up, Penrose believes that this is a make or break clash.
“You would have to say that it’s win or bust for us,” he acknowledges.
“While teams like ourselves have dropped points earlier in the league every point is so precious now.
“Kerry lost to Mayo last week-end while we missed the boat against Galway so both teams will have a big statement to make in this game.
“We are certainly not going to throw in the towel.”
Even in games which Tyrone lost earlier in the competition the marksmanship of Penrose proved a plus-factor — so much so that he
became the latest winner of the Quinn Insurance Ulster GAA Writers monthly merit award.
Now Penrose and his colleagues are in pursuit of another bonus — the retention of their Division One status.
“To have lost four out of five games is disappointing but we have to live with that.
“The best response we can give is by beating Kerry and then overcoming Dublin in these last two matches.
“We don’t know for sure even if that will be enough to keep us up,” points out Penrose.
Both Conor Gormley and Davy Harte will again be key figures in the Tyrone defence while Cassidy will underpin the midfield with Penrose again the fulcrum of their attack.
Kerry manager Jack O’Connor has watched his side lose three games so far and knows that a wounded Tyrone can be a dangerous animal.
“Tyrone are at home and they need the points badly,” says O’Con nor.
“We ourselves were not that happy with our performance against Mayo last Sunday so we have a wee bit of ground to make up.”
Both Colm Cooper and Declan O’Sullivan will be key cogs in the Kingdom attack with David Moran set to enhance his reputation in the central area and Killian Young, Marc O Se and Padraig Reidy hoping to underpin the defence.
The All Ireland champions have not quite sparked into life this year but the sight of the red and white jerseys is calculated to bring out the very best in them — something that Penrose in particular acknowledges ahead of the crunch clash.
“We have had some great battles with Kerry over recent years and tomorrow night’s game is very important to both sides.
“It will be a championship tie in all but name,” states Penrose.
Few, indeed, will argue with that assessment.