By Alan Rodgers
TYRONE stalwart Frank Burns has hailed the impact of their new recruits ahead of Saturday week’s Ulster Championship quarter-final at home to Monaghan.
It had all been looking so negative for the Red Hands as three losses from four saw them in a battle for survival. But the victories over Kerry, Monaghan and Armagh salvaged their top flight status and means that they enter the knock-out season in bouyant form.
Improving on the fortunes of 2022 when a defeat to Derry was followed by an All-Ireland Qualifier exit to Armagh is also a priority and Frank Burns says they are helped in their mission by the players who are relatively new to the panel.
“It was good to finish the National League well with the win over Armagh. That game was always going to be tight, and the three wins in a row was important.
“We were facing relegation before the three wins. But that’s the league wrapped up and it’s about knuckling down again now for the championship coming up.
“The panel has 100 per-cent been strengthened during the first part of the year. There’s new players coming in who are pushing the rest of us on. Nobody is guaranteed a place. They are flying, and the U-20s from last year’s All-Ireland win are coming in and looking for places as well.
“Competition is healthy and we’re happy with the way things are at now.”
Monaghan will arrive in Omagh under the new manager, Vinny Corey and on the back of a massively successful survival challenge. Once again this year, they secured their Division One status with victory on the final day of action, after a campaign for long periods of which they looked like 2023 was going to be the season when their decade-long stretch in the top flight would end.
“The way Monaghan turned around and pulled the win over Mayo out of the bag shows the spirit of Monaghan,” added the Pomeroy clubman.
“It shows the fight that they have in them. We know that the Monaghan that we played in the league three weeks ago will be a shadow of the team coming to Omagh. We’re going to have to get ready for that fixture.
“To be honest the quicker return to action is personally not something I’ve thought too much about.
“As a player, you want to be playing more games because that’s what you’re looking for.
“Looking at the last couple of years Galway had a chance and Dublin had one to put Monaghan down and none of them managed it. I’m not surprised at all, and they’ll have a bounce coming to Healy Park.”