GAA Football

Tyrone's Conall McCann keen on 'most important' McKenna Cup matches

Tyrone's Conall McCann competing against Derry's Jason Rocks in the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup semi-final.
Pic Philip Walsh

MANY may sneer at the Dr McKenna Cup but for a certain level of player “these games are probably the most important that we will play this year.”

So says Tyrone’s Conall McCann, at least in relation to attempts to become a first team regular later in the season, and he’s looking for another chance to impress in Saturday night’s final against Armagh.

The Red Hands reached a 10th consecutive decider by edging past Derry at the Athletic Grounds, which will host the game this weekend after Armagh won a coin toss to decide the venue.

“It was a very competitive game and Derry certainly asked questions of us, said the Killyclogher man.

“The aim at the start of the season was to get five games in the McKenna Cup and we have done that.

“It’s important for boys to get run-outs and try and impress and thankfully we have done that.

“I know for a right few boys, including myself, these games are probably the most important that we will play this year in terms of getting game-time later on and everyone is out to impress.

“Mickey will obviously have a tough choice for the first league game in Kerry having to pick 26, never mind the starting 15, so it’s a good problem to have and it will set us up well.”

McCann has been impressed by Armagh’s performances so far, with high-scoring wins over St Mary’s and Antrim followed by hard-fought one-point victories over Monaghan and Donegal:

“We have another tough game in the final this weekend against Armagh and that will stand to us ahead of our trip to Killarney.

“Armagh beat Donegal and played really well in their group and they are going to be a serious team to beat. I know that they have a lot of players back as well and it’s going to be a good test for us at this time of year and we are looking forward to it.

“There is nothing better than playing games. If we weren’t playing against Armagh this weekend we would be training really hard but the best preparation that you can get is playing matches, especially against the likes of Armagh who are putting a real push on really early.

“You can see that in their results as they scored six goals against St Mary’s, won their group, and then beat Donegal.”

A largely second string Tyrone laboured to a 0-14 to 1-8 win over Derry, who were much closer to full-strength but will be in Division Four this season.

McCann suggested that the team holiday in Thailand after Christmas may have been a factor in Tyrone’s low-scoring displays against Fermanagh and the Oak Leafers, although he also gave credit to their opponents:

“Derry made it very difficult for us, it was a real battle out there, and thankfully we came out on the right side of it. It’s great to get a challenge like that at this time of the year.

“Derry were up for it and I suppose it’s hard just coming back from a holiday or whatever and maybe after Wednesday night boys were a bit tired and that.

“We haven’t really trained in maybe two weeks and that was why they were a bit sharper than us in the first half, although I think our fitness levels told in the end.

“The subs coming off the bench did really well when they came on and it’s crucial to have that strength in depth on the bench and that should bring us on in games in the future”.

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