Sports

McKenna cup progress out of Tyrone's hands

Thursday, 19 January 2017

TYRONE'S McKenna Cup destiny is out of their hands, and victory is vital in a midweek clash with Donegal for title hopes to remain alive.

Manager Mickey Harte was pleased with his side's second half display at Carrickmore on Sunday, when the students of Ulster University were routed as the Red Hands scored a first win of 2017.

“It's not in our hands, we can only do what we can with our own two results, if that takes us to the semi-final that'll be great," said Harte.

“It's out of our hands so we can't guarantee anything, we just want to win our two games and get as many points as we can, if that takes us to the semi-final great. If it doesn't, we'll have to deal with the place we find ourselves."

The Red Hand boss has targeted not just a win, but a resounding margin so as to gain a high finish through scoring difference and thus a place in the last four.

“We want to win the game by as many scores as we can get. If Donegal are happy with getting three quality matches that's their decision and it must be the right one for them."

Harte was frustrated by his side's lack of bite and urgency in the first half at Carrickmore, but all that changed after the break, when they took the game confidently to the students.

“It's about that final pass, it let us down a number of times, never mind the wides. It's just decision-making, we maybe kicked instead of passed and a number of times that last pass which would've been the critical pass went to the wrong player," he said. "That happened in the malaise of the first-half and you have to say we did get a response.

“Disappointed with our performance in the first-half, we were lethargic and sort of going through the motions and allowing them to dictate the pace of the game.

“That didn't serve us well with the result that we weren't far ahead of them at half-time. We asked for much more energy and pressing from our players and I think we got that."

There were many positives to be taken from a 13 points success at Pairc Colmcille, not least the attacking performances of Lee Brennan and newcomer Ronan McHugh, who claimed a combined total of 1-10.

“They're young lads and they're going to be good footballers. It takes players time to mature, they'll have good, bad and average days and so will every player.

“It's nice to see people who can finish around a forward line and then when they mature into what's required at senior level then they can become a force to be reckoned with.

“It was a case of getting the Christmas cobwebs out of the system. I wouldn't have been very happy with our first-half performance and we were a bit lethargic and we were letting them dictate the pace of the game. We needed the scores to give ourselves a chance of staying in this competition."

Harte recognised that the university side had little to gain or lose from the game, and will not be overly disappointed to be bowing out of the competition.

“I am quite sure they [Ulster University] are not all that excited about staying in the competition, they just want the games for match practice in preparation for the Sigerson.

“A lot of their key players were not there which made it more disheartening for us that they weren't playing their best side by any means and they were holding their own with us. We needed more from our players in the second half and I half to say we did get that."

Tyrone were missing several players, and Harte had to call up a handful of U21 players to make up a depleted match-day squad.

“We're very grateful for the U21 management for releasing three of their players to us.

“It was a new experience for them too and with all the injuries we have, with Mattie being suspended, with players with their colleges and Pomeroy still in the All-Ireland series, we'd 19 players of our own fit and available so it was nice to have those three lads on stand-by."

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