Kildare game a must-win for Red Hands.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

TYRONE can't afford any more slip-ups, and they face a must-win trip to Newbridge this weekend.

Fellow strugglers Kildare are equally desperate for points to drag them off the bottom of the NFL Division One table, and the stakes will be high at St Conleth's Park.

Both sides are pointless, having lost their two opening games in the league campaign, but all that will change on Sunday afternoon.

The Red Hands will be looking to take the positives from their defeat to All-Ireland champions Dublin last weekend and build on the many pleasing aspects of their performance at Healy Park.

"We have five games now to try and salvage our position in Division One, five games left to save our bacon from going down," said Tyrone manager Mickey Harte.

"The motivation is to do the best you can every game you play. We probably didn't do that last week and we got nothing out of it. We played very well tonight and got nothing out of it.

"We can only hope we play very well next week and do get something out of it, but that's the challenge before us.

"Unless we play as well as that, we wouldn't be sure of getting anything out of the game. If we can raise ourselves to that standard, we'll be very competitive next week and the weeks after. "

With two reversals in the two games to date, the high hopes of Red Hand supporters have been dashed, and they have turned their aspirations from league glory to Division One survival.

"At the start of the league you have seven chances, now we have only five left to pick up enough points to keep us safe so that's a real battle now, a real challenge for us as the season progresses," Harte added.

But the Tyrone boss was pleased with the performance of his team against the All-Ireland champions in a game that was competitive up until the latter stages.

"I think we battled well in that game. It was a good response to what happened last week in Tuam. I think the first half we were very good and probably could have been further ahead," he said.

"We didn't like the goal we conceded, I think we should have been better in conceding that. And then of course the second goal was worse still.

And the amount of chances we created in the second half and didn't take.

"We had chances galore before we even got the first score of the second half. We missed about 1-7 or 1-8 in the second half. Half of that would have made some difference come the end of that game.

"But, we didn't get them. At least we were creating chances, at least we were competitive and I think the players could hold their heads high despite we haven't got any points out of this."

And on the second goal that gave the Dubs a cushion they benefited from until the end, Harte said: "I suppose it was just a lapse of concentration. You might get away with that against a weaker opposition where you make a mistake and they wouldn't grab it, but you don't do that against Dublin.

"If you make any mistakes you're punished and certainly we were punished for that one." The Tyrone boss feels the Dubs play the game with a greater intensity than any other team, and remain a level above the chasing pack.

"Ah, they do, there's no doubt about it. That's why they're four times league champions and three times All-Ireland champions in recent years.

"You don't arrive at that position if you don't have a lot of game know-how, a lot of quality players and players who know how to play with intensity because they've been in very many intense games and come out the right side of them.

"You just don't do that and not learn from it. If we had played like that against anybody else tonight we'd have got two points." Lee Brennan was drafted into Tyrone's starting line-up, and the Trillick attacker responded with a sparkling performance, hitting six points.

"It was a real big challenge for him tonight," said Harte. "I think it was maybe his first start in the National League and he's been with us for a couple of years. For a variety "It's a credit to him because this was an important game against a big team and he didn't seem out of place.

Tyrone were missing several of the players who faced Dublin in last year's All-Ireland semi-final, but the champions were down a few as well.

"I'm sure Dublin could point to a lot of players they didn't have as well. It's good that, with that number of changes, we were able to compete there tonight. That's the pleasing thing we'll take out of it.

"We competed, we worked hard, we gave ourselves the best chance of getting something out of the game. That we didn't get it is one of those things."


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