Connor McAliskey says Tyrone should not be gripped by fear of relegation

Defeat to Dublin has left Tyrone pointless after two games in Division One and Connor McAliskey says the Red Hands are aware of the importance of Sunday’s trip to Newbridge Picture by Philip Walsh
By Francis Mooney

TYRONE attacker Connor McAliskey says it’s too early to become gripped by fear of relegation, but he accepts that Sunday’s clash with fellow strugglers Kildare is a must-win tie.

Both sides go into the Newbridge encounter without a point, propping up the Division One table after losing their opening two games.

Tension will fill the air on an occasion which will see the loser of this crucial contest plunged into a desperate battle to avoid the drop.

“To say that it’s a must-win game is an understatement,” said McAliskey.

“They are in a similar position to us with nothing to show for their efforts from two outings and we need to get points on the board and begin to climb up the table.

“It’s way too early to talk about relegation but there is no doubt whoever loses on Sunday is in trouble. From our point of view we have still tough games with Monaghan, Mayo, Donegal and Kerry coming up but all the focus is on Kildare this weekend.

“We are certainly going to have to step it up another gear and show a big improvement on our finishing this weekend in Newbridge. We need to play the way that we did against Dublin in the first half and we need to sustain it this time if we are to be successful.”

St Conleth’s Park is a difficult place to pick up points, and the Red Hands have endured many difficult afternoons at the venue.

The Clonoe O’Rahilly’s clubman expects another battle on a tight, restrictive pitch.

“Newbridge is never an easy venue to get a result in. Tyrone have had some great battles in recent times with Kildare, not least in my first season at senior level back in 2014 when we produced a smash-and-grab in the League to come from five points down in injury-time to beat them with a Mark Donnelly goal.

“The changing rooms in Newbridge are small and the pitch is tight, so we are under no illusions that a real battle lies ahead for us.”

The newly promoted Lilywhites were unlucky to get nothing from a close contest against Monaghan last weekend.

And in their opening game against Dublin, they performed strongly for 45 minutes, before the All-Ireland champions turned up the tempo in typical style.

“Kildare are in the same situation as ourselves so they will be fighting for their lives. We watched their first game against Dublin on TV and they were very impressive in the first half, much like ourselves.

“Last weekend they matched Monaghan all the way and missed a couple of chances in injury time that would have saw them take something from the game. They no doubt would have targeted us as an opportunity to get League points and we will have to bring our ‘A’ game to Newbridge if we are to be successful.”

McAliskey was pleased with last Saturday’s performance against Dublin at Omagh, despite the outcome, a five-point win for Jim Gavin’s side.

He felt the players produced an admirable response after crashing to a disappointing defeat to Galway.

“I felt that we responded very well on Saturday night after our defeat in Tuam. We played especially well in the first half when the quality of ball coming into the inside forward line was very good.

“We probably should have been further in front at half-time and when they got their goal it sort of threw them a lifeline as I felt it came against the run of play.

“They regrouped at half-time and came out for the second half and closed down the channels and blocked the space and we were unable to get the same quality ball in. Having said that I don’t think people realised how strong the wind was down on the pitch.

“We couldn’t get the diagonal ball in and we had to try and change things around. Our shot selection was poor at times and the fact that we had 10 scoring chances in the second half and kicked eight wides as well as dropping one short says it all. I had a good goal chance myself which would have drawn the game but Cluxton made a good save.”

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