By Alan Rodgers
A HERCULEAN performance is the target for Tyrone as they once more welcome Kerry to the county for what promises to be an intense National League clash at Healy Park on Sunday.
It has been an extremely difficult start to this 2023 season for the Red Hands. Defeats to Roscommon, Galway and then Mayo last Saturday night have left them rooted to the bottom of the top flight table with just three matches remaining to secure their survival.
There has been just that one high-point, with the win over Donegal at Healy Park last month. But amidst the gloom of some poor displays, Tyrone have produced momentary glimpses of the character, commitment and skill which have proved so enduring for this All-Ireland winning team.
As the reigning All-Ireland champions, the Kingdom arrive north bouyed by a closely-fought victory over Armagh last Saturday night at the same time as Tyrone were losing by 10 points to Mayo further up the west coast. With David and Paudie Clifford and Sean O’Shea back on board, they remain the top team in the country and formidable opponents.
Wins over Mayo and Armagh mean that they are slightly further up the Division One table than Tyrone. But they are by no means safe and will know that a defeat here would leave them once again scraping for points as the league campaign reaches its finale.
Tyrone, though, have history on their side. Time and again over the years, they have produced the goods big time against the Kingdom when the pressure was on. Victory over them in Killarney last year is a classic case in point.
Team managers Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher know only too well what’s needed, and the players themselves are aware that make or break time is now fast approaching. Victory on Sunday would set them up perfectly for the visit to Inniskeen to take on Monaghan and then a clash against near-neighbours, Armagh back in Omagh on March 26.
With three games left, the stakes could hardly be higher.
Tyrone haven’t been in Division Two since 2016 and will be anxious to gain the points needed to avoid relegation, and leave them clear to prepare for the Ulster and All-Ireland Championships in the summer.
The reformatted race for the Sam Maguire also adds further intrigue and urgency to their bid to stay up in the coming weeks.