Conor Meyler says Tyrone need to hit the ground running this summer

Tyrone's Conor Meyler expects his side to start the summer quicker than they did last year when they enter the Championship action this weekend
Francis Mooney

CONOR Meyler is hoping tardy starters Tyrone can hit top pace from the outset and get their Championship challenge off to a searing start.

Slow out of the blocks last year, the Red Hands lost their first round game, but recovered to go all the way to the All-Ireland final.

And they were at it again in this season’s League, failing to win any of their opening three games, before a late charge saw them just miss out on a place in the Allianz League Division One decider.

It’s a vulnerability that Derry will be hoping to exploit in Sunday’s Ulster SFC preliminary round tie at Healy Park.

“The first one is tough, trying to get back into gear again. Last year we were pipped, and we were very disappointed at that,” said Meyler.

“In hindsight, it actually worked out pretty well, but this year we want to be going the front door route, trying to win Ulster.

“I think every team sets out their stall at the start of the year with the aim to win an Ulster Championship. I haven’t looked past Derry, nor have any of the players, this is our focus.

“We haven’t looked at Antrim or Donegal of Monaghan, or whoever we face further down the line.

“If you don’t treat those teams with respect in the first round, that’s where you can get caught with complacency.”

While the teams who meet on Sunday have been competing at opposite ends of the GAA spectrum this year, Meyler insists that Tyrone must, and will, leave nothing to chance this weekend.

“I have been really impressed with training at the minute. it has been very good, a lot of good leaders there really driving things on, because we know that if training is slack, that will come through to the game.

“So we have to be setting ourselves really high expectations at training, and thankfully boys have come through club games well, and the more players you have at training obviously helps things as well.

“We’re getting good numbers out, getting plenty of boys on the pitch, and that all helps for any football you’re playing. You need to have everyone available and that’s been a big boost this year.

“So everything is there set for us, it’s just a case of going out and performing on the day now.”

The end of Slaughtneil’s dominance of Ulster club football has proved to be a massive boost to the Derry team.

With all their players available to them, they eased to promotion out of Division Four of the NFL with a confident unbeaten run.

“Their club football might have worked against them in some cases. With the club football being so strong, they haven’t always got the commitment from some players.

“This year seems to be their strongest team in the last number of years. The Slaughtneil contingent, who know how to win big games, seem to have been the spine of their team throughout the League, and seemed to get them over the line in all their games.

“I have seen a lot of them playing college football, schools football, and they have a lot of good individual players. It’s just a case now of how they click as a team.”

Having slumped to successive League relegations and suffered Championship failure over the past few seasons, often at the hands of Tyrone, little is expected of the Oak Leafers, but Meyler regards them as a dangerous opponent coming in on the blind side.

“They’re coming under the radar, it’s obviously a plan that they have, that they’re going to keep things low-key.

“They’re going to have no fear coming to Healy Park, they’ll be fully confident that they’re going there to win the game, with nothing to lose, ready for an ambush.

“But I suppose it’s not an ambush if you’re expecting it from our end.

“We’ll be prepared, and we feel that if we play up to the standard that we did in the league, with that intensity, we’ll win the game.”

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