Sports

Still stormy weather for Tyrone.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

THE weather has faired, but Tyrone remain in choppy waters as they attempt to steer a steady course to safety.

The postponed relegation battle against Donegal has been rescheduled for Saturday, and the anticipation has been building day by day.

These neighbours will do battle at Healy Park for vital league points which will pull them clear of the NFL Division One relegation zone.

Both counties are in deep trouble, with just two points apiece from the first four rounds of games, and the stakes are high as they prepare to pursue the result that will lift them out of the drop zone.

Last month it was Donegal who came out on top when they met in the Dr McKenna Cup final, but in a significantly more important encounter, the Red Hands will be looking to turn the tables.

It's the first of three crucial games on successive weekends, with Mayo and Kerry also to be faced in the fight to stay in the top grade.

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

"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."


But it's this weekend's clash with Donegal that Tyrone are fully focused on, and Cavanagh says no extra motivation is necessary.

"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.

The All-Star midfielder accepts that the Red Hands will have to deal with an increasingly attack-minded Donegal side that has been racking up bit scores.

"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.

A narrow defeat to Monaghan last time out left Tyrone in a difficult place, with just one win from three attempts, making this weekend's derby all the more crucial.

"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 building towards full inter-county match fitness, having been involved in a glorious journey with his club, Moy, which ended in an All-Ireland final triumph at Croke Park.

"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 in March.

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

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