GAA Football

Criticism of Tyrone has been unfair insists Monaghan midfielder Darren Hughes

Darren Hughes, pictured left closing in on Kerry's Jason Foley, feels Tyrone have been unfairly criticised in the wake of their All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Dublin last Sunday. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Neil Loughran

MONAGHAN midfielder Darren Hughes believes the criticism aimed at Tyrone has been unfair, insisting the Red Hands shouldn’t be judged solely on “one bad day at the office”.

Mickey Harte’s men found themselves in the firing line after last summer’s harrowing All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Dublin, and the Tyrone boss recently hit out at those who claim they play an overly defensive brand of football.

The Red Hands travel to Castleblayney on Saturday to take on Monaghan in a dress rehearsal ahead of their May 20 Ulster Championship showdown.

And Farney powerhouse Hughes admits he has been surprised at the level of criticism aimed at the reigning provincial kingpins in the aftermath of that Dublin defeat

“Tyrone are getting a lot of flak but in the Ulster Championship last year, there wasn’t a team that laid a glove on them,” said the Scotstown man.

“If you counted up their average winning margins up until they got to the semi-final against Dublin, Tyrone weren’t doing too much wrong.

“They won the Ulster Championship at a canter and it was probably to their detriment going to play Dublin in the semi-final because they hadn’t been tested. After 15 minutes they didn’t know where to go, but the criticism has been harsh on them.

“I’ve seen us getting criticised before when we’ve been winning Ulster Championships… you do what you have to do to win. When Tyrone were shooting out the lights last summer, nobody could touch them. I don’t know what more you can expect.

“Tyrone had one bad day at the office – anybody can get caught cold. Sure Dublin had us beat after 20 minutes too. It was the same thing. They get the run on you and that’s just it.

“You’re trying to devise different systems and changes to come up against them but they just keep coming at you. That’s why they’re the benchmark for us all.

“Everybody’s on about the top three or four; it doesn’t really matter unless you’re in the top one.”

Monaghan made it two wins in-a-row with a morale-boosting victory over Kerry in Inniskeen on Sunday, holding off a late fightback to build upon their previous success in Kildare.

Hughes forced two turnovers in quick succession early on as the Farneymen swarmed the Kingdom’s short kick-outs, and a flying start saw four points up inside five minutes.

“We didn’t specifically target them [Kerry’s kick-outs]. We wanted to eliminate, as best as possible, the short kick-out option and force them long.

“The fact you can’t kick it inside the 20 metre line now, we actually got one of them, so you try and get a bit of heat on. It’s not always possible but it takes a very precise kick to get it to a corner back now.

“We said before that we wanted a good start but we finished up with 1-13, so we got nearly a quarter of our points in the first five minutes.

“But here, with Kerry travelling you wanted to take any advantage of any possible lapse in concentration. That start gave us a bit of a cushion to work off for the rest of the game.”

Another two points this weekend would almost certainly secure their Division One status, while simultaneously heaping pressure on their Ulster rivals.

Although Hughes is quick to dismiss any motion of psychological edges being lost or gained ahead of that Ulster Championship date.

“Not really – it’ll be forgot about on Sunday probably,” sad Hughes, whose brother Kieran could come back into the fold against the Red Hands.

“It’s only a League game at the end of the day. It’s a long time until summer, a lot of work to do, a lot of men to come in, a lot of games to play.”

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