By Niall Gartland
TYRONE joint-manager Brian Dooher said he “couldn’t fault” the application of his team during their narrow defeat away to Galway last Saturday in Salthill.
Pádraic Joyce’s side led for practically the entirety of the game and had the benefit of an extra man following the first-half sending off of Frank Burns, but Tyrone doggedly refused to go away and can look ahead to their round two clash against Armagh next weekend with a fair degree of confidence.
For a period in the first half, Tyrone looked in real peril when reduced to 13 players for a period when Niall Morgan was sent to the sin-bin, but they held firm and can be pleased with their efforts on the day.
Speaking after the match, Dooher felt the Red Hands did well in the most trying of circumstances.
“It was an uphill battle from the start, with Frank getting the red card. But to be fair the boys really worked hard, I can’t fault them, they took the game to Galway in the second half.
“They seemed to leave too much space and Galway got the odd point from counter-attacks and were able to keep us at arm’s length, and we never got that gap down to one or level, I thought if we did that we could’ve pushed on.
“Here, that’s the way it is, you go down a man and lose a man to a black card as well and it’s an uphill battle. We just have to dust ourselves down and go again.”
Tyrone’s full-back line more than held their own against marquee duo Shane Walsh and Damien Comer, but Galway are no two-man team and were able to exploit gaps further out the pitch when Tyrone were on the hunt for scores in the second half.
“That’s the risk, when you push up to try to get scores you inevitably leave yourself a bit exposed, it’s hard to do both. Galway picked us off with a couple of good scores and a couple of frees, kept that distance and we couldn’t get it back.”
One of the other plus points on the day was the impact of a few rookie players who were sprung from the bench in the second half. Dooher singled out the contribution of Trillick’s Seanie O’Donnell in particular, a talented ball player who got his first taste of senior inter-county football.
“They were deserving of their opportunity, wee Seanie has been a breath of fresh air in training, he’s a good lad and puts in good work and deserved his opportunity and didn’t do badly.”
There were three points between the teams at the final whistle, and try as they might, Tyrone couldn’t conjure up a goal in the closing stages. They never really threatened a three-pointer at any stage, as Dooher acknowledged.
“That was probably the nature of the game, we were a man down, you have to adjust. We didn’t get any goal chances and that’s still disappointing and we probably really needed a goal in the end up. It was going to be needed but that’s the way it goes.”
Tyrone are still strongly fancied to make it out of the group albeit it’s difficult to envision them topping the table after their opening day defeat. There’s been plenty of chatter about whether the new group stage format is too forgiving, but Dooher said his players approached the game like they would any championship match.
“I’ll leave that for the spectators to decide but I thought it was fairly intense. I don’t think our boys sat back, it was a championship game and that’s the way we treated it, that’s how we approached it and I think the players did the same. They worked hard, I can’t fault them for their work rate or application, they did well.”
Next in the pipeline is beaten Ulster finalists Armagh, who get their group stage campaign underway against Westmeath this Saturday before travelling to Omagh the following weekend. It promises to be one hell of a battle.
“It is a big challenge, we played them six weeks go, they’re a good side and could’ve been Ulster champions, we’re under no illusions about what we’re going to be facing in two weeks’ time.”