Sports

Ulster rivals up next for Tyrone

Thursday, 23 February 2017

AN ULSTER derby offers Tyrone the opportunity to extend their unbeaten start to the National Football League this weekend.

Cavan are the visitors to Healy Park on Sunday for what promises to be a difficult test for the Red Hands.

The Breffni men have already beaten Tyrone this season, coming out on top at Kingspan Breffni Park in the opening game of the Dr McKenna Cup, but the Ulster champions will be better prepared this time, and will be fancied to take the points.

Mattie Donnelly is set to return to return to the side after missing the draw with Dublin due to injury, and his presence will be a big asset.

Under former Tyrone star Mattie McGleenan, Cavan have made an encouraging start to the season, giving the Dubs a tough battle, before taking a point from their visit to neighbours Monaghan, and they will be confident they can get something from Sunday's game.

Manager Mickey Harte has given a handful of newcomers their chance to cut it at the top level, and he has been encouraged by their showings against Dublin in a thrilling draw at Croke Park.

“A lot of our new and younger players can take confidence from it, that they have actually been toe to toe with maybe not the whole full Dublin team, but a good number of them across the night," he said.

“And I think they can say that they stood up well to that challenge. If they had never been in that place, then they wouldn't know how they could compete at that level.

“So I think it's good to see that they can compete, whatever time of the year, with the champions."

But Harte is concerned at the amount of scoring opportunities which have not been taken.

“Were happy when we're creating chances, even if you don't finish them. The worst game you can have is when you're not creating chances," he said.

“If you don't create chances, you certainly won't score, if you're creating them there's a chance that you certainly will score.

“I'd always be happier with the creation of more scoring opportunities. Obviously the idea is to take the lion's share of them. we're not doing that at the minute.

“It's not all to do with our shooting, obviously pressure has a part to play in that as well, the pressure and quality of the opposition."

Sean Cavanagh also voiced his disappointment with the success rate from the attack against the Dubs.

“We probably need to work on is our conversion rate. I think (v Dublin) we had 28 shots and scored 1-7 off that. It isn't good enough. It probably is that final piece of the jigsaw.

“It's a sort of a case that, okay, we could have done more but they'll probably feel they could have done more. We hope that we'll get a chance to meet them  (Dublin) later in the season.

Cavanagh also revealed that this will be his last season as a Tyrone player.

“In my eyes this is it and genuinely I do absolutely love every minute I'm training. It's absolutely Baltic in Garvaghy at training. But I do love going up. I love spending time with the guys.

“I know you'll never be able to replace that camaraderie you have with the team when you go. We're lucky in Tyrone we don't have any club rifts, we have everybody who turns up to train for Tyrone, and to play for Tyrone, who is 100% committed to try and do their best for Tyrone.

“That environment is a great one to be in. I'm just living it, training session by training session, day by day and I'm really enjoying it at the moment because I know this will be the end of it.

“You want to be fair to the rest of the guys too. I'd never like to think that I'd be living on a reputation or something like that. I have been incredibly fortunate throughout my career to win what I have won but at the same time I don't want to be the person training once a week or every other session to try and be part of something where the rest of the guys are putting in the hard work.

“That was the basis on which I came back this year, that if I wasn't fit to do the things everyone else was doing, including the gym stuff, and four or five nights a week of training, I wouldn't do it. I know that will be more difficult next year and the year after so I have it in my head that this is it."

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