Another Ulster derby awaits.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

A DIFFICULT National Football League campaign for Tyrone doesn't look like it's going to get any easier as they face another Ulster derby this weekend.

Donegal are on their way to Healy Park for a tie that both sides are desperate to win in their respective efforts to lift themselves out of the lower reaches of the Division One table.

This will be the second meeting of the sides in the space of a fortnight, Donegal having defeated the Red Hands in the Dr McKenna Cup final to deny Mickey Harte's side a seventh successive title.

But the stakes will be much higher on Saturday evening, with precious league points up for grabs in what is certain to be a ferociously competitive game between two sides who have just one win each in the series so far.

"Every game is important and we're four of the six points that people would consider as securing safety," said Tyrone manager Mickey Harte.

"It's not a good place to be in, but it's where we are and it's still in our own hands to pull out from that. The next three games will have a knockout status from here on."

Harte reflected on a narrow loss to Monaghan with regret, but praised the courage of his players in keeping in touch with a determined Farney outfit.

"We got off to a poor start but then went ahead by a point at half-time. Because of that probably flattering lead it was felt that we could push ahead in the second and probably get something from the game," he said.

"I think the performance was good enough in the early part of that second half and got into the lead. The critical time was when they got unanswered points to push away from us.

But the players showed a lot of courage and determination to fight back to a one point game and there were chances to be better than and weren't taken.

"You have to pay the price for not capitalising on those chances. There are fine margins in this Division that we're in and that's the difference between two valuable league points, one and none. That's where we find ourselves now."

It was a frustrating evening for the Ulster champions in what was a dress rehearsal for the Anglo-Celt Cup opener between the sides at Healy Park later this year.

"There were times when the last pass just didn't work out as well, and another occasion when two players went for the ball and didn't get it. It's very hard on players when they put in a lot of hard work and get nothing out of it.

"While we didn't get anything from this game in terms of league points, I think there'll be plenty to get from in terms of improvements. Obviously the finishing side of things is one and if there had been better ball handling then we'd be in a much better place"

Harte is not concerned at the level of confidence among his players, despite a run of four defeats in the last five games, including a Dr McKenna Cup final loss to Donegal, who travel to Omagh for Saturday's crunch league tie.

"I don't think confidence is an issue for us after the recent losses. It's just one of those things that teams go through phases of creating lots of chances and not finishing them.

You're not going to finish them all, but we need a better percentage and haven't managed to do that in a number of crucial games over the past few years," he added.

"It's something that we have to think about and try to improve.

The players also deserve credit for the standard of the football that they produced in this game in conditions that were slipper with the onset of frost. The spectators, especially those who maybe didn't have a vested interest, certainly got value for money.

"Monaghan had a lot of seasoned players who came on and performed well."


Subscribe to read full newspaper »

Send to a friend

Please complete the following form to inform a friend about this page.

In order to process your information we must ask you to enter the letters in the image into the box:

CAPTCHA Image play audio version Reload Image

* Mandatory field - please complete