GAA Football

Long road ahead of Tyrone says Connor McAliskey

Tyrone's Connor McAliskey chases Monaghan's goalscorer on Sunday, Vinny Corey during their Ulster SFC quarter final. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
Francis Mooney

Connor McAliskey has no doubt that Tyrone will find strength in adversity and recover to mount a serious challenge through the Qualifiers.

The Ulster champions, dumped out of the provincial title race by Monaghan at Healy Park, face a long and treacherous route, which includes the new Super 8s, if they are to make it to the latter stages of the All-Ireland series.

They have done it before, winning an All-Ireland title on the end of an eight-game run back in 2008.

That was before McAliskey's time in the county colours, but he's certain that spirit still exists within the hearts of the current squad.

"There's a lot of us that have been in this position before. It's tough, when you train so long, it's a sickening blow. But it's how you recover, it's a long road but we have three weeks 'til we're out again, we've three weeks to dust ourselves down and hopefully advance to the next step," he said.

This was a huge game which both sides had targeted since the draw was made last October, the stand-out tie in Ulster's first round line-up, and one which could provide a precious passport to the Super 8s.

"Definitely, it was a big game, everyone was focused on the Monaghan game," said McAliskey.

"We were obviously looking to win and it's disappointing not to get there. We've been there before and it's a long road through the Qualifiers, you have to take it one game at a time.

"It's a long road back, this year it's a Super 8s. We'll have to dust ourselves down and go at it again on the training field."

Vinny Corey's goal in first half stoppage time was a savage blow, leaving the Red Hands to chase the game in what would be a fierce second half battle.

And with Rory Beggan and Conor McManus punishing mercilessly from placed balls, the reigning provincial champions were doing no more than hanging in for survival.

"It was a big score at a very good time for Monaghan, it was probably what they wanted playing against the wind in the first half. We set our stall out to close that gap, we put in a lot of effort, but they kept on getting the scores when we were getting it.

"They kept a couple of points ahead the whole time. We equalised but they pushed on, they had that extra kick. They kicked some great scores, I know Conor McManus struck a great score and Dessie Mone struck a great score from near the end line. Rory Beggan, his free kicks were exceptional. They were very accurate and kept the scoreboard ticking over."

Tyrone defended with their customary structure and discipline, but also showed an appetite for attack, and McAliskey felt a positive offensive performance should silence many of the critics.

"We said this before, it seems to be something that's branded on Tyrone. Everyone talks about the ultra-attacking football Dublin play but if you watch them closely, they bring a lot of men back.

"It's a team game. Every man has to work when you don't have the ball. We're branded as ultra-defensive but I thought today we had a lot of men up the field. I thought it was an open game of football, I think we're getting branded wrongly."

The Clonoe attacker was his side's chief source of scores, hitting six points to keep Tyrone's challenge going on a difficult afternoon.

But his personal tally was of little consolation as the treble dream crashed.

"You try to give your personal best every game. Obviously I was happy with my personal performance but it's the bigger picture that I was looking at. If we win I'd be a happier man. It's about giving your best for the team. They went over today but we couldn't get enough to push on."

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