THE small steps which Tyrone have been taking towards reviving their championship challenge are about to leave them on the brink of now negotiating one decisive leap.
Action in the All-Ireland Quarter Final super eights later in July remains the target. Wins over Meath and Carlow have kept them on course, but now there’s the prospect of a clash against Ulster rivals Cavan to really whet the appetite.
Recent years have seen the Red Hands encounter the odd tough time from their Breffni opponents.
More of the same is being anticipated at Brewster Park on Saturday as they bid to overcome the penultimate hurdle on the road to the last eight.
Team captain, Mattie Donnelly, and the rest of the players and management were understandably pleased to have emerged from Cullen Netwatch Park with their All-Ireland ambitions still intact.
Some pundits are doubting Tyrone’s Sam Maguire credentials at the start of September. However, the basic fact is that they’re still in contention and the Trillick clubman strongly believes that they’re gradually getting stronger.
“Our main objective from the match against Carlow was to be in the hat for the round three draw. That was the plan and that was how things were leaving there as well,” he said.
“We’ll be approaching the next match in exactly the same way – just focusing on our next opponents in the next few days and how we can set up against them and counteract what they do well.
“It was about getting our game going and executing the skills well on Saturday. When that happens we can cause teams problems and it’s just about getting more of that.
“Peter Harte coming back into the team gives us back a vital cog in the middle eight section. There were some very encouraging signs there like the inter-change and link play and more of that and improvements are definitely needed.
“It’s good to have clawed our way back and to be in the next round again. There was never much shouting at half-time against Carlow, more a case of revisiting what we’d done well in the first half and trying to repeat that,” he added.
Things have been understandably low-key in the All-Ireland Qualifiers so far for Tyrone.
In the aftermath of the shock nature of the defeat to Monaghan in the Ulster Championship, arguably left them vulnerable for the opening match against Meath. Victory was secured in that one, but only after more anxious moments.
Now it’s a trip to Brewster Park and a chance to make their mark against Cavan, the two counties the last to be drawn out when the draw was made on Monday morning.
Overall, though, the manner in which Tyrone have come through will be fairly satisfying for both the managers and players as they prepare for greater challenges ahead.
Whether or not they have improved is a question that might only be answered when they meet the very toughest opposition. Nevertheless, nothing can be taken for granted against their Breffni opponents who lost out to Donegal in Ulster and defeated Down last weekend.