TYRONE have an opportunity to breathe fresh life into the Ulster Minor Football Championship challenge this weekend, but it’s now a sudden death knock-out scenario as they take on Down at Pairc Esler.
This Round Three Qualifier is essentially a quarter-final, and following last weekend’s below par performance against Monaghan, the pressure is on the Red Hands to produce a performance of substance and quality.
They face a Mourne side that has grown stronger through the ‘back door’ channel since losing a preliminary round tie to Monaghan, and with home advantage and a big local crowd cheering them on, will be in the front foot on Saturday afternoon.
“There’s a safety net there, and now we’re using it, but we have no more chances,” said Tyrone manager Collie Holmes, who admitted his previously unbeaten side had been flat and lacking in energy at Pairc Colmcille last Saturday
“We have gone seven games without losing and we have learnt our lessons by winning, so now we’re going to have to go the other way.”
Holmes will be looking for a more cohesive display from a talented group of players who had an off-day at Carrickmore, suffering their first defeat of the season as they went down by 3-8 to 0-13 to the Farney lads.
“Usually we pride ourselves in our tackling, so we’re going to have to look at a lot of stuff. It was just one of those days, we didn’t have the same energy as Monaghan had and we’re going to have to look at these things.
“The power and the pace they brought … they have learnt more from the league game than we have. They are Ulster champions, and tonight they showed exactly why.”
Inside forwards Mark Devlin and Daniel Fullerton have a clinical eye for the posts, and if they hit form, Tyrone could be on their way to penultimate stage of the provincial title race.
But they will need a supply of quality ball, for which they will look to the ball-winning, industry and workrate of Michael McGleenan, Shay Gallagher, Ruairi Campbell and Ronan McHugh.
Down have dangerous attackers in John McGovern and Sean Og McCusker, and a reliable place-kicker in midfielder Odhran Murdock, but with skipper Niall Devlin organising things at the heart of the Tyrone defence, and Micheal McCann, Sean O’Donnell and Seamus Sweeney all ready for the challenge, the home side’s threat can be nullified.
Throw-in on tomorrow is 2pm
FULL STORY IN THURSDAY’S PAPER