Saturday night’s win over Longford was achieved with a much changed and younger looking Tyrone team than the one that lost against Donegal. In fact it could be argued that when Conor Gormley left the field, with the notable exceptions of Brian Dooher and Ryan Mc Menamin, what remained could well have been the shape of things to come for Tyrone in the not too distant future. Injuries and form led to five changes for the Longford game and it would be fair to say the changes certainly did not weaken the side judging by the performances of the players who came in. A goal and seventeen points is a decent return by anybody’s standards and it was in stark contrast with the nine points we scored in our Ulster Semi final defeat.
However we did concede fifteen points and uncharacteristically we were not as sharp defensively as we have been in the past. The Longford forward trio of Magee, Kavanagh and Mc Cormick all had fine games and landed some excellent scores. They were afforded too much space at times and caused our back three much more trouble than the combined threat of Murphy, Mc Fadden and Mc Brearty last day out. In fairness to the lads involved they were all returning from some time out due to injury so may have lacked some degree of match fitness. With that in mind Saturday’s game will have done them the world of good and they will be much the better for it.
In the first half in particular the movement and willingness to cover ground of the Longford forward unit did prove difficult to cope with and the three full forwards won a lot of primary possession inside the Tyrone defence. The quality of the ball in and the sparse defensive cover provided further out the field had a major bearing on how well the Longford forwards fared. Against better quality sides such deficiencies could be punished much more severely.
Equally worrying is that at times it appears we lack a real tight marking, pacy defender who can deal with the opposition’s main attacking threat and the further we go on in the qualifiers the more important such a shortcoming might become. Sides like Dublin tend to cope with that through intense hard work and strangling the life out of the opposition attacks by being ultra defensive. Such a strategy may not be pretty but it is pretty effective and does yield results and at the end of the day good performances entertain the masses but results are all that counts.