JUST two weeks after defeating Monaghan in the McKenna Cup final, Tyrone are again set to lock horns with the Farney again this coming Sunday, with two league points the prize up for grabs.
This weekend’s clash in Castleblaney will see the Red Hands keen to maintain their winning run in the top flight, but aware that Séamus McEnaney’s side will not only want a modicum of revenge following their defeat a fortnight ago, but that they will also be keen to bounce back from defeat in their Division One opener against Galway.
Tyrone, meanwhile, claimed a fairly comfortable five point victory over Meath at Healy Park in their first tie of the campaign and they will be eager to make it two from two on Sunday.
Ahead of their trip to Monaghan on Sunday, Kieran McGeary has admitted that this fixture is just one of a number of difficult tests that lie in wait during Tyrone’s league campaign.
And McGeary, who captained the ‘Red Hands’ to that McKenna Cup victory over the Farney side, believes maintaining an unbeaten run will be nigh on impossible this term.
“Look at last year, we lost two games badly but recovered and finished third in the table,” he observed. “It goes to prove just how unpredictable it can be.
“A win on Sunday is our target but if we lose it’s not the be all and end all.
“Keeping the momentum going would be great but that’s so hard – injuries play a part, you can lose players, but there’s a great buzz in the camp and we are positive.”
Tyrone’s five point win over Meath at Healy Park last week wasn’t a classic performance, but McGeary believes there are positives to take from the game.
“The first half proved to be difficult for us,” acknowledged the Pomeroy man. “We expected it would be. We rode our luck at bit in the second half too but took our scores. We were able to see the game out and that was important.”
Tyrone’s McKenna Cup campaign may have ended with a comfortable win over this weekend’s opposition, but McGeary knows all too well that McEneaney will have his side fired up for this Castleblaney clash.
“I would think they will be a different prospect this weekend,” he admitted.
“They were maybe a bit flat, not fired up in the McKenna cup final. We will see a different Monaghan, they have a few key players back and have a similar look to Malachy O’Rourke’s side from last year.
“We had a real tough battle with them last season, so it’s another tough test.”
Monaghan’s backroom team boasts two former members of the Tyrone coaching staff – fitness guru Peter Donnelly, who also plies his trade for Ulster Rugby, and John Devine, but McGeary doesn’t believe that will change anything ahead of, or during, the match.
“It won’t be an issue for us, no not at all,” he confirmed.
“Peter is an expert in what he does and we are well aware of what he can bring to players and what he brings to the changing room.”
Former Ulster Rugby coach, Jonny Davis has replaced Donnelly in the Tyrone camp and McGeary has been delighted with his influence.
“It’s going well, Jonny is buzzing and the players are buzzing too,” he beamed.
“It would be fair to say we have bought into what he’s doing. I’d have to say it’s been very good.”
While several new players were introduced through the McKenna Cup campaign, McGeary is hopeful that experienced players will also return, including Cathal McShane, who was an interested spectator at Omagh last Sunday as he contemplates his future with a career in Australian Rules Football still a possibility McGeary admits he would like to see last year’s Championship top scorer back with the squad, but the Pomeroy man knows that’s not his call to make.
“It’s up to him for sure, it will be his decision, his call,” he said. “We all know what he can do, he proved how good he was last year and we would be delighted to see him back.
“That said, we have experienced players expected back in the coming weeks. We were strong last Sunday and I’d expect that to be the same this week.
“Several new players have come in too through the McKenna Cup, there’s plenty of competition for places and that’s good too.”