By Barry O’Donnell
IF Tyrone needed any reminder that they will have ‘a target on their backs’ in 2022, then the All-Ireland champions were provided with that stark warning on Tuesday night.
A 15 point loss (1-17 to 0-5) in early January in the McKenna Cup to Cavan won’t set any alarms bells ringing, especially given the backdrop to the game, but the management won’t want to see too many repeat horror showings as the weeks progress.
Just back from their New Year team holiday in Orlando, a vastly understrength Tyrone were way off the pace from first whistle till last, and bar a miracle result against Armagh this Saturday at O’Neills Healy Park, they are effectively now just playing for pride in the pre-season competition, with progress to the semi-finals highly unlikely.
While joint boss Feargal Logan could easily have reeled off a litany of excuses for the below-par performance, he hoped instead that the scale of the defeat would act as a wake-up call for his side.
“It’s not a cause for concern but you don’t like to take to the football field and surrender the position like we did tonight.
“While we are just back home out of the States it will hopefully bring everybody round in terms of getting ready for 2022. Cavan deserve full credit for the way they took us on and gave us a bit of a lesson.”
Tyrone players have been rightly lauded over the last few months after their stunning Sam Maguire success in September, but Logan cautioned that it was now back to brass tacks with the first few tentative steps being taken into the new season.
“You can say things but until you see them in real life the reality is what is needed. Of course we all know that there is a target on our backs.
“We have good players coming through and we have to give them some good opportunities. Cavan also had men new to it too so most counties are using the McKenna Cup that way. We won’t be using that as an excuse. We came here and we were soundly beaten. That’s life, that’s football and we just have to start again on Thursday night at training and get going at the weekend.”
The likes of goalkeeper Lorcan Quinn, Shea Hamill in defence, midfielder Joe Oguz, and Nathan Donnelly, Tomas Carney and Michael Conroy in attack, were all drafted in for their senior inter-county debuts, and while the match didn’t go as they would have liked, Logan insisted that Tyrone would continue to give newcomers an outing against Armagh this weekend.
“We probably will give some more game time to younger lads just to see how they are. If it’s beyond our reach in terms of going through (semi-finals) it will be an opportunity to do that but again the established players need to get back on message too so it’s always a delicate balance.
“We will get time to sit down for a day or two and work towards Saturday. The redeeming feature is that Saturday comes quickly and we don’t have to wait the full week to get another game. So we will have an opportunity to get this out of our system.”
And with Tyrone now unlikely to have the benefit of additional competitive games after this Saturday ahead of the National League opener at the back end of January, when they host Monaghan, Logan hoped that the team would learn from the salutary lesson meted out at Breffni Park.
“The bottom line is that score difference hasn’t helped us so it’s unlikely we will progress. Of course we would love more competitive games and the league is going to come among everybody very quickly this year. At least we have these couple of games. It was better to get that wake-up call tonight rather than get it in three weeks time.”