By Alan Rodgers
ONE winning performance has catapulted Tyrone onto a more positive framework in their battle against the dreaded drop from the top flight of the National League.
It’s a survival bid which is set to reach a critical juncture during the coming weeks. First up, there’s a crucial clash with Monaghan at Clones on Sunday week, before hosting their high-flying neighbours from Armagh in the final round seven tie on March 26.
Nothing less than two victories and with them the full four points will suffice to ensure that the position in Division One is secured. But there’s no doubting the morale-boosting importance of that tie against Kerry last Sunday when a 1-15 to 2-9 victory maintained the Red Hand dominance against the All-Ireland champions. Between league and championship, they have now beaten them on four occasions in the past three years, including crucial league games and the All-Ireland semi-final in 2021.
Among those who made an important mark last Sunday was Frank Burns. The Pomeroy man is now one of the most experienced players on the Tyrone team and his display against the Kingdom once more highlighted the significant role which he plays.
He was delighted with the win over the visiting Kingdom, but is also well aware of the need to make their mark in those two remaining matches against Monaghan and Armagh.
“Of course we were happy with the win because Kerry are never easily beaten on any day. There’s smiles on the faces of the Tyrone people coming onto the field here and that’s what it’s all about,” he said.
“It was a tough week for us after losing by 10 points to Mayo. We knew that we had no time to feel sorry for ourselves and then regroup and then get dusted down for the challenge of Kerry.
“Our games against Kerry have always been ding-dust battles and we knew this one was going to be no different.”
There is nothing like a game against the reigning Munster and Sam Maguire Cup holders to motivate the Red Hands. This was highlighted by an absolutely determined performance which saw them come from behind with skill, commitment and teamwork. It was a win which also exorcised the disappointment of recent defeats and below-par displays.
“Before the Kerry game we were sitting on two points, so it didn’t really matter who was coming to play today. We needed more points on the board and look, we’re still not safe. Nobody will be celebrating nothing here. The win was achieved, that was what we came here for and we’re out again in two weeks and we’re still far from safe. It’s definitely all to play for,” he added.
“There’s two Ulster teams to finish against Monaghan and Armagh. Ulster is probably the most competitive province that there is and there’s definitely not going to be anything easy in either of those two games. But we’ll dust ourselves down, get back to training and see what the plenty of areas which need to be improved upon in the next two weeks.
“Our performance against Kerry was probably the best of the league so far from us. It took a while to produce that, but after recent results we needed a response and I’m happy that a lot of the boys stood up today and we’re proud of them for doing well.
“It’s always good to respond after a goal and get up to the other end of the field and get a score. That’s something which we’ve been working on and thankfully everything worked out for us here.”