A MIXED start to their Division 3A campaign means that the Tyrone hurlers now stand at a crossroads facing either a bid for promotion or a battle against relegation.
Victory over Louth in round one was followed by a disappointing defeat to Donegal a fortnight ago. It means that two more points against Monaghan today are absolutely vital.
But it’s not an easy ask for Mattie Lennon and the players as they prepare for the trip to Castleblayney, where their footballing counterparts lost early this month.
Monaghan will be especially motivated as they bid to bounce back from losses in their opening two games. Longford defeated them in round one, before they lost out to promotion favourites and neighbours, Armagh, on the first Sunday in February.
Tyrone captain, Chris Kearns, knows all about the importance of securing a win which would keep them very much in touch at the top of the table.
“The Donegal game was only our first loss and if they were to lose then we’d all be level on points again. But that result also means that we can’t afford to lose any more matches,” said the Naomh Colmcille player.
“It would obviously be very easy to get sucked into a relegation battle and that’s the one thing which we want to avoid. The aim is to be in the battle for promotion. Ultimately, I think everything in this division is going to come down to the game against Armagh. They are the strongest team in Division 3A at the moment, so all we can do is just focus on what we’re doing.
“Monaghan are never easy to beat. They turned us over last year when we were going into the game with momentum and maybe we fancied ourselves a bit too much and were caught on the hop.
“We just can’t let that happen again and try and get back on track this Sunday.”
The defeat to Donegal was a disappointing one. Tyrone never really got going, eventually slumping to a comprehensive loss.
However, the extra two weeks of training means that the Dungannon contingent will have had more time to prepare following their impressive progress to the Ulster Intermediate Final before Christmas.
No wonder, then, that the team captain is keen to concentrate on the positives, as they again look to players such as Damien Casey, the returning Conor Grogan, Bryan McGurk, Tiarnan Morgan and Lorcan Devlin to impress.
“Losing the Ulster Final was disappointing for Dungannon, but fair play to them for coming back. They’re a big part of the panel and we’re getting there in building up to the rest of the league and the Nickey Rackard campaign in the summer,” he added.
“At this time of the year, it’s a case of digging in and the aim has been to just get back to training, put in a big effort and give Monaghan a good go in the next match.
“It was very disappointing to lose against Donegal because obviously we had gone into that game on the back of a win over Louth and we just never seemed to get going,” said the Naomh Colmcille player.
“Our hope was to start and build some momentum for the National League. But Donegal are a good side that’s just down from playing in Division Two.
“It’s a great privilege for me to be captain and the lads are easy worked with. Anything that you need a hand with, they’ve no problem doing it and hopefully we can get back on track again against Monaghan.”