GAA Football

Tyrone's Connor McAliskey: Red Hands ready to deliver knockout blow

Tyrone's Connor McAliskey
Francis Mooney

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Tyrone heads are in the zone and imbued with a knock-out mentality as they target a first All-Ireland final appearance in a decade, according to Connor McAliskey.

Ulster neighbours Monaghan stand in their way this weekend, but the corner forward feels momentum and form are on the side of the Red Hands.

Having ditched another northern foe to lay a Ballybofey bogey with victory over Donegal last Sunday, Mickey Harte’s men are on the march with a sense of purpose not seen since those glory days of 2008.

“We have that knock-out mentality, and it’s something that game to the fore again (v Donegal). We knew it was a game we needed to win, and we knew it was an All-Ireland quarter-final and the best team would win,” he said.

“Every week we just recover, re-focus and set out for the next week.”

McAliskey has gone close virtually every season since arriving on the scene six years ago, but never managed to make the big breakthrough into an All-Ireland decider.

After missing the 2017 season with a cruciate injury, he has made a spectacular return, and his clinical finishing has made the 27-year-old the side’s leading championship scorer this year.

“For us, since I joined the panel, it’s been quarter-final, semi-final, but we just haven’t knocked that door down yet.

“That’s the target, get to the big day, and everyone is aiming for the same goal, and hopefully we can get there.”

There’s a score to settle with a Monaghan side that ambushed Tyrone at Healy Park in the opening round of the Ulster SFC.

Since then, following a wobble against Meath and despite a narrow defeat to Dublin, the Red Hands have been on an upwards spiral, learning and developing as they go.

“We probably feel that we didn’t play to our potential in the first round of the Ulster championship while Monaghan played very well.

They didn’t get up to the same level in the semi-final against Fermanagh but since then they haven’t looked back. They have been very good all year right back to the league and are the only side to have beaten Dublin.

“I watched their game against Galway and they turned in another great performance to emerge worthy winners and they are going to be tough opponents. A lot of their players are going very well and that is up to us now to play to our potential and find out what is the best way to break them down and go at them on Sunday and give it everything that we have and hopefully it will be enough to get us the result.

“After the Monaghan game, we sat down and looked at the video, worked out where we could improve and go again, and take it on to the next day.

“And its’s been like that every game, even when we were getting the wins, we were looking at the video and trying to learn. It’s all about learning, progression, and thankfully we have been able to do that this last few games, and it has brought us back to the point where we’re at now.”

The hand of opportunity is reaching not just to Tyrone, but to a Monaghan side competing in a first semi-final in 30 years and bidding for a first ever All-Ireland final appearance.

“Yeah, it’s massive, and I’m sure Monaghan will be at their training ground thinking the exact same thing. They have put a big year in, they have had a lot of close calls the last few years and they will be thinking like us.”

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