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Lots To Be Positive About From League Campaign.
The 2011 Allianz National League programme is now finished for Tyrone and the players will turn their attention to readying themselves for the start of the forthcoming club season. The manager on the other hand will surely spend some time reflecting on how the campaign went and what the positives and negatives were from the seven games played in Division Two.
I am not sure if he would totally agree but I felt there were far more positives from this year’s National league than there were negatives. In terms of players’ form and fitness the injury to Justin Mc Mahon was certainly a blow particularly when it came just after he had fought his way back to fitness. However the prospects for the big Omagh man look good and he will hopefully soon be back on the playing field again as will Cathal Mc Carron who picked up a hamstring injury during the week leading up to the game against Kildare.
The positives on the injury front however have seen the return of Joe Mc Mahon, Brian Dooher, Enda Mc Ginley, Tommy Mc Guigan and, fingers crossed, Philip Jordan to the panel. There can be little doubt that what these players bring to the table in terms of skill, leadership and experience is bound to benefit the squad and that can only be good for Tyrone football.
This year’s league campaign did not get off to the best of starts with defeats in the two opening games. Derry managed to withstand a late surge from Mickey Harte’s side while Donegal looked fairly comfortable winners against Tyrone on a cold and miserable Saturday night in Omagh. Two games and no points meant Tyrone needed results from the rest of their games if they were going to be in with any chance of promotion.
The team went on a five game unbeaten run of four wins and a draw to finish just outside the promotion places which was positive in itself but some of the football played and determination shown were more than worthy of note.
Defensively we performed much better with good tight marking, better work on the break ball and excellent support from the backs when breaking at pace. Several defenders managed to get forward for a score or two but it was their hard work and energy that was the real plus point for me.
Kevin Hughes and Aidan Cassidy are developing a nice partnership in centre field and have certainly given Tyrone much greater options in this key area. However it is in the forward line where I believe we have seen the greatest progress this year.
Martin Penrose has built on his displays of 2010 and has now firmly established himself as a scorer in chief. In this respect he has been ably assisted of course by Sean Cavanagh and the mercurial Brian Mc Guigan.
For me, however, the biggest bonus has been the new found confidence of Mark Donnelly who has excelled during the last three games of the league and is presently playing with great self-belief and composure. The Carrickmore forward has been excellent and his latest display against Meath was that of a man now beginning to adapt to the pace and demands of inter county football.
We may not have succeeded in gaining promotion to the top division but this year’s league has thrown up many huge plusses for Tyrone and they can now look forward to taking on Monaghan in the championship in a very positive frame of mind.