Cavanagh wants to see Tyrone heading in right direction.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Cavanagh wants to see Tyrone heading in right direction. thumbnail Colm Cavanagh is keen to see the Red Hands make progress this weekend.

IT'S derby-day desperation for both sides as Tyrone and Donegal do battle for precious league points this weekend.

A week later than scheduled, due to adverse weather conditions, two teams struggling near the bottom of the National Football League Division One table will attempt to drag themselves out of the relegation zone.

Both counties go into the game with just two points from their four outings to date, and with three rounds of games to go, it's all about avoiding the drop to Division Two.

Tyrone's struggles began right from the outset, when they lost to newly promoted Galway at Tuam, before going down to a home defeat at the hands of All-Ireland champions Dublin.

Both of these sides have backed up their displays against the Red Hands by winning all four of their games to date, to lead the way at the top of the league table.

Mickey Harte's side finally got off the mark with a dramatic one point win over fellow strugglers Kildare at Newbridge, but failed to back up that morale-boosting victory in their next outing, when they travelled to Castleblayney to take on neighbours Monaghan and suffered a narrow one point defeat.

Now they are in dire need of a result, and with Donegal also facing the prospect of relegation, this weekend's clash promises to be a tense and absorbing contest.

Tyrone's All-Star midfielder Colm Cavanagh says the team will need no motivation for a crunch game, with two fierce local rivals set to engage in a typically ferocious tussle.

"The fact they won the McKenna Cup from us and with the battle for points is just as fierce for both sides, it should spice it up. Both teams will be well motivated for it," he said.

Cavanagh feels the Red Hands will have to deal with an evolving style of play from a Donegal side which has become more attack-minded under new manager Declan Bonner.

"They got the better of us in the McKenna Cup Final and I suppose they are playing a more expansive style of football.

"They were impressive at times against us and have clearly done a lot of work on adapting their tactics, which they seem to be improving upon."

And with Mayo and Kerry, also needing points, to be tackled in the following weeks, it promises to be a tough series of games for Tyrone.

"We have to play Donegal, Mayo and Kerry, sides like ourselves who are struggling at the wrong end of the table," he said.

"You could say that all three of those games are like four pointers.

But it's all about finding more consistency. Our form at times against Monaghan was fine but we have to sustain that over a longer period of time to get the right results."

A narrow defeat to Monaghan last time out brought bitter disappointment to a Red Hand side that came so close to picking up two vital league points.

"Performance-wise it was probably a mixed bag. We started very slowly and Monaghan got a bit of a run on us. We fought back into the game well and obviously went ahead at half-time.

"We take some positives from that but the down side was that we made a lot of errors and mistakes.

If you commit that many at this level you are going to be punished.

"The biggest disappointment was naturally the result, losing after such a close game. We have a lot of things to work on and improvements to make for Donegal."

Cavanagh added: "I think the last time we went down we were also involved in a couple of narrow one point losses too. It's all fine margins, a point or two here or there in certain games and you could find yourself further up the table rather than the spot we now find ourselves in.

We are at the bottom end right now and have a lot of work to do in the last three games to scrap our way out of it."

Cavanagh made his first Tyrone appearance of the season against Monaghan, and is still working hard to get up the pace of the inter-county game, after an extended absence, during which he won an All-Ireland IFC title with Moy.

"Things have been different for me this year in terms of preparation. I have been training away with the club because our season stretched into the new year.

It will probably take me a bit of time to get up to the pace of it again, I noticed it last Saturday night there. My play wasn't as sharp as I would have liked it to have been.

"But I'm feeling good and feeling fresh and I am making that transition back into the Tyrone squad. That will take a period of time for myself as the squad have been training together since pre-Christmas and we are now nearly in March.

"Despite some of the results there is still a positive vibe about the place and I'm glad to get back."

Meanwhile, Donegal manager Declan Bonner says Tyrone counterpart Mickey Harte has every right to be annoyed over the recent criticism of his tactics.

Following last month's McKenna Cup final defeat to the Tir Chonaill men, a tetchy Harte disagreed with suggestions from BBC's Mark Sidebottom that the Red Hands needed to alter their defensive approach, with the latter referencing last year's All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Dublin.

But Harte has found an unlikely ally in Bonner, who will plot against the Ulster champions again next weekend.

"Tyrone have been one of the most consistent teams and Mickey has a right to feel aggrieved about the negative talk around his system," said Bonner.

"The night we played Dublin in the league, they had a lot of men behind the ball. That's part and parcel of the modern game, but Tyrone have played a system that has got them over the line in Ulster and got them big scores."

NFL Division 1A

Team P W D L Pts

Dublin 4 4 0 0 8
Galway 4 4 0 0 8
Monaghan 4 3 0 1 6
Kerry 4 2 0 2 4
Donegal 4 1 0 3 2
Tyrone 4 1 0 3 2
Mayo 4 1 0 3 2
Kildare 4 0 0 4 0


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