Sports

Tyrone Set To Cav A Go

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

TYRONE can extend their unbeaten start to the NFL season in Sunday's Ulster derby clash with Cavan at Healy Park, writes Francis Mooney.

Confidence is high in the camp following an opening day won over Roscommon, followed by a battling draw with Dublin at Croke Park.

It has been a highly encouraging start to the 2017 campaign for the newly promoted Red Hands, who have already shown that they can compete with the best sides in the country.

Cavan travel to Omagh needing a result, after picking up just one point from their opening two games.

But they will have taken confidence from their display against Dublin, and their battling draw with neighbour Monaghan at Castleblayney.

The Breffni men have already beaten Tyrone this year, scoring a fully merited victory in the opening round of the Dr McKenna Cup back in January.

And with former Red Hand star Mattie McGleenan in charge, they will be well fired up for this crucial league encounter.

However, they will encounter a seriously motivated Red Hand side driven by a determination to succeed, and fortified by a belief that a successful league campaign is a prerequisite for championship achievement.

But manager Mickey Harte is concerned at the conversion rate from his attack, which is not racking up the scores as he would like.

“Were happy when we're creating chances, even if you don't finish them. The worst game you can have is when you're not creating chances," he said.

“If you don't create chances, you certainly won't score, if you're creating them there's a chance that you certainly will score.

“I'd always be happier with the creation of more scoring opportunities. Obviously the idea is to take the lion's share of them. we're not doing that at the minute.

“It's not all to do with our shooting, obviously pressure has a part to play in that as well, the pressure and quality of the opposition."

But Harte is happy with the way some of the recent call-ups to the squad are progressing as inter-county footballers, with a number of impressive performances in the last game against Dublin at Croke Park

“A lot of our new and younger players can take confidence from it, that they have actually been toe to toe with maybe not the whole full Dublin team, but a good number of them across the night.

“And I think they can say that they stood up well to that challenge. If they had never been in that place, then they wouldn't know how they could compete at that level.

“So I think it's good to see that they can compete, whatever time of the year, with the champions."

Sean Cavanagh also has concerns over the lack of ruthlessness in the team's finishing.

“We probably need to work on is our conversion rate. I think (v Dublin) we had 28 shots and scored 1-7 off that. It isn't good enough. It probably is that final piece of the jigsaw.

And he's hoping that the Red Hands get another meeting with Dublin later this year.

“As a team we were really, really looking forward to Saturday night's game to test ourselves against the best. It's a sort of a case that, okay, we could have done more but they'll probably feel they could have done more. We hope that we'll get a chance to meet them later in the season.

Cavanagh also revealed that this will be his last season in the Tyrone colours.

“In my eyes this is it and genuinely I do absolutely love every minute I'm training. It's absolutely Baltic in Garvaghy at training. But I do love spending time with the guys.

“I know you'll never be able to replace that camaraderie you have with the team when you go. We're lucky in Tyrone we don't have any club rifts, we have everybody who turns up to train for Tyrone, and to play for Tyrone, who is 100% committed to try and do their best for Tyrone.

“That environment is a great one to be in. I'm just living it, training session by training session, day by day and I'm really enjoying it at the moment because I know this will be the end of it.

“You want to be fair to the rest of the guys too. I'd never like to think that I'd be living on a reputation or something like that. I have been incredibly fortunate throughout my career to win what I have won but at the same time I don't want to be the person training once a week or every other session to try and be part of something where the rest of the guys are putting in the hard work.

“That was the basis on which I came back this year, that if I wasn't fit to do the things everyone else was doing, including the gym stuff, and four or five nights a week of training, I wouldn't do it. I know that will be more difficult next year and the year after so I have it in my head that this is it."

Meanwhile, former Red Hand star Philip Jordan believes that winning a league title could be the making of Tyrone's season.

“For teams like Tyrone, Monaghan, Cavan, Roscommon and Donegal, winning League games is important and winning a League title could be the making of their season," he said in his RTE column.

“These are teams that are building and the momentum of a good spring campaign can fire them through the Championship.

“Those are the teams that want to be winning every game and who you'd expect to see putting in good performances with a lot of intensity and high work-rate.

 "For Dublin, Mayo and Kerry, the League is a different proposition. They can't take it for granted, but they have a fair idea that they'll pick up enough points to stay in Division 1 at least. If they win a few extra matches they could get into the final and end up with an extra competitive game.

“But for these teams the League is about trying to find those two or maybe three players from the fringes of the panel, normally young guys, who are ready to step up, take their place for the Championship and improve the team.

“I remember myself when I was one of the more experienced Tyrone players, that's always what we were looking for - to pick up enough points to stay in Division 1 and add something that would strengthen our team."

Jordan feels Dublin's comeback against Tyrone at Croke Park should be taken as a warning to the rest of the country.

“I watched them against Tyrone and the way they managed to carve out a draw against a team that was playing with Championship intensity and were hugely hungry for the win was a warning shot to the rest of the country.

“They just don't want to be beaten and they seem to always work out a way to ensure they're not. Few enough All-Ireland champions I have seen over the years would have been willing to roll up their sleeves in February the way they did to drag themselves back into it at Croke Park."

And he believes Tyrone need a quality forward to give them a cutting edge and extra scoring power.

“From a Tyrone perspective there were positives, but the same negatives - we're still looking for that forward that will get us three or four points from play every day and we're still looking for the reliable free-taker that every successful team needs."

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