THE early January jolt to the system failed to throw Tyrone off course as they maintained their stranglehold on the McKenna Cup last Saturday.
After an opening day loss to Cavan, the Red Hands proceeded to reel off four convincing victories on the spin, culminating in the weekend nine point dismissal of Derry at Pairc Esler in a one-sided final to again defend their title. Things though are set to get an awful lot tougher.
Some of the country’s heavy hitters lie in wait for Mickey Harte’s men over the next two months as their National League Division One campaign springs into action this Sunday afternoon with Roscommon visiting Healy Park.
With difficult road games on the horizon against Dublin, Donegal and Kerry, it’s imperative that the newly-promoted Tyrone gorge on some ‘home cooking’ to avoid any potential relegation concerns this term.
On paper, Sunday should present an ideal opportunity to kick-start their league programme on a positive note, and so maintain the momentum built up over the past fortnight, albeit the quality of opposition will be a notch or two higher.
Encouraging performances from seasoned campaigners such as Mattie Donnelly, Peter Harte and Justin McMahon, allied to the emergence of others like Padriag Hampsey, Jonathan Monroe and Padraig McNulty, would suggest that the Red Hands are in fine fettle heading into league battle.
However experienced defender Justin McMahon wasn’t getting too carried away with their latest McKenna Cup triumph, and was well aware of the step up in class that now awaits the team.
“We’re not setting the world alight or playing great football right now, in fairness you don’t really want to in January anyway but this McKenna Cup win gives us something to build on.
“The whole word coming out since the start of the year was to get more competitive games under our belt and that is what the McKenna Cup has been about at the end of the day.
“We won’t read too much into it but at the same time it was nice to get the extra games in preparation for the League coming up.
“Those are the really important ones now at this stage of the season.”