Sports

Red Hands return to division one league action

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Red Hands return to division one league action thumbnailTyrone s Conor Meyler in possession.

Tyrone return to the big-time this weekend with a National Football League Division One opener against Roscommon at Healy Park.

Back in Division One, the Red Hands will mix it will all the country's top teams this season, and they will be keen to get off to a winning start.

The Connacht men turned in a string of impressive performances in the top flight last season, reaching the semi-finals, and they will feel they are capable of building on that level of success in 2017.

A big crowd is assured on Sunday as Tyrone set out on what their loyal supporters will be a successful season which will continue well into late summer.

A solid Dr McKenna Cup campaign brought them five competitive games which will stand to them as they target early points and a strong start to the NFL campaign.

Roscommon made a strong start to last year's campaign, scoring away wins over Kerry, Donegal and Cork, and Tyrone manager Mickey Harte expects a burgeoning challenge from the Connacht men this weekend.

Yes, obviously they're not fazed by going on the road, and they believe they have a style of football that will serve them well in this division, he said.

And I don't think that Tyrone will hold any fears for them, because they ll believe they have a year's experience in Division One, which we haven't got at the minute, so they ll probably want to use that psychological edge if they can.

They put a lot of energy into having a really good start to the league, and they got the points because of that, which actually brought them to the semi-final, never mind kept them clear of relegation.

So I think that they probably know that that served them well last year, and I don't expect them to come to Omagh looking to give any points handy to us.

They retained their status, that's the main thing, and they set out to do that.

They did it very comprehensively by not only retaining it, but getting to the semi-final.

Harte was delighted to collect silverware last weekend when his side won the Dr McKenna Cup for a sixth successive season, setting them up nicely for league action.

It's certainly a good way to finish the month, but that's over now, we have that job out of the way.

Two points against Roscommon is the thing that's really most important now, so we have to prepare now for what's a more important game in the broad sense of what the season's about.

But Tyrone have not played Division One football since 2015, and the step up to the premier level will be a big challenge, particularly to the younger players.

It's a challenge to go up to the highest level and play there, but I think these players are well capable of doing it.

They have played at a high level of under-age Tyrone teams, they have played at a high level at college, and there's still a lot of good football played in Ulster.

A lot of the teams that we would be playing are Ulster teams in Division One of the league, so you re talking about the big ones of Kerry, Dublin and Mayo, who have been there all the time this last lot of years.

Outside of them, there's a lot of people who feel that can challenge each other, and we want to be in that challenging pack.

Serious competition for places will ensue over the coming weeks as a talented group of players strive to achieve at the highest level.

You want players energetic and fighting to get on the team or to get on the squad for next week, because that's a challenge as well. Even to get in the 26 is a challenge now, with the number of players we have that are contesting those places.

That's all to play for and I suppose that is healthy when you have people who think that if I don t work hard here, this particular place, somebody else will want it.

Harte added: We have done well in the McKenna Cup in the last six years. If you look back at our progress over that period of time, we weren't too bad.

We were in a league Division One final and we have been in an Ulster final and won it, and we have been in All-Ireland semi-finals, so I don't think there's any way you can say doing well in the McKenna Cup mitigates against doing good the rest of the season. So we ll take it as a positive and we ll try and build on it.

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