By Barry O’Donnell
MAINTAINING the winning habit will provide Tyrone with every motivation required to get past old adversaries Donegal in Saturday night’s McKenna Cup Final at the Athletic Grounds, Cathal McShane insists.
The Owen Roes ace acknowledged there was a collective sigh of relief in the Red Hand fold when they squeezed past Kildare last weekend to secure their first National League victory of the campaign, at the third time of asking.
And while consolidating their top flight status in Division One will take priority over the McKenna Cup, McShane for one isn’t diluting the significance of the upcoming clash with the Tir Conaill.
“ We didn’t get off to the best of starts in our first two league games but obviously we picked up two good points against Kildare on Sunday. Hopefully that will give us the momentum to carry on this winning streak against Donegal at the weekend.
“ We’ll look forward to it even though it’s a strange time of the year for the McKenna Cup Final. Anytime you play Donegal there is always a big rivalry there and there’s extra motivation with it being a Final. Hopefully we will come out on the right side of it.
“ It felt good getting our first league points on the board. Now we want to try and build on that and keep winning. Given it’s a final too you want to keep winning and so go back into our league games then in good form. It’s important to try and get a winning streak going.”
Despite the switch in timeline for the McKenna Cup decider, due to this winter’s harsh weather, McShane stresses that it remains an important competition for Tyrone.
“ It means a lot to us. We are in our seventh final in a row and we always use it to get the platform for a good league campaign. It also gives men a few opportunities to stake a claim for a position on the team. It’s good to have that competition in the squad.”
The St Mary’s College student has also been impressed with Donegal’s early season showings under new manager Declan Bonner, and felt that lady luck hasn’t shone on them.
“Donegal may have no league points but they have been putting in very good performances. They were only beaten by a point away to Kerry in the first game, and against Galway the same, and then at the weekend against Dublin they came back strong in the second half and maybe could have got something from the game. They are going well even if results mightn’t suggest it.
“ We played them in the Championship last year. It’s always a big rivalry and both teams will be desperate to pick up silverware too. We are going for seven in a row so we are keen to continue that.”
Despite those two early league defeats McShane added that the morale within the Tyrone fold remained high, and felt that was evident in their display against the Lilywhites.
“ We thought we put in a good performnace against Dublin and were unfortunate to come away with no points but the players worked hard in training and battled to make sure we were ready for the Kildare match. It wasn’t easy but we dug deep and thankfully came out with the two points.”