GAA Football

Tyrone need to have more tricks up their sleeve heading into Championship campaign admits Kieran McGeary

The dynamic Kieran McGeary is a mainstay of the Tyrone team heading into Championship, having started every game after the Red Hands's opening National League defeat to Kerry. Picture by Philip Walsh
Neil Loughran

A FEW key positional switches may have helped ignite Tyrone’s National League campaign, but Kieran McGeary knows the Red Hands need to have a few more tricks up their sleeve heading into Championship.

The redeployment of Mattie Donnelly and Cathal McShane further up the field for the final four games of that Division One campaign reaped rich rewards as Tyrone finished with consecutive wins.

Victories over Ulster rivals Monaghan and Cavan were followed by taking the scalp of All-Ireland champions Dublin at Croke Park before signing off with a seven point win at home to Galway.

That run of form sees the Red Hands head into the summer in high spirits.

However, McGeary knows that Sunday’s Ulster Championship opponents Derry – and other counties across Ireland – will have taken note of the more direct alternative to Tyrone’s traditional counter-attacking game.

“Those few positional changes, look, they worked in our favour - not every day we go out will they work in our favour,” said the Pomeroy ace.

“We’d be pleased with the second half of the League in terms of where we actually started to put into practice what we’re being coached, and what we have been being coached this long time.

“[In the early stages] the shackles were still a wee bit on. Everybody knows Tyrone moreso as having this defensive structure, defensive mindset, but hopefully the second half of the League proved that we’re more than a one trick pony.”

And while the mood is buoyant as they prepare to welcome Damian McErlain’s Oak Leafers to Healy Park, it was the complete opposite after some lacklustre early season performances.

Mickey Harte’s men had only one point after three games, and were well below-par in defeat to Kerry and Mayo – two of the counties who, alongside the Red Hands, are considered challengers-in-chief for the Dubs’ crown.

McGeary accepted the criticism that came their way, and admits the frustration of those early displays eventually drove Tyrone on to greater heights.

“You have to look from the supporters’ point of view who travelled to Kerry, travelled to Roscommon that day, three games in, sitting with a point, planning what they have planned with families, paying what they have paid to get into games, you have to see it from their point of view.

“Annoyed at the time? Yes, probably say things they don ‘t really mean, and as a player you do be getting frustrated… you want to do well for yourself and you want to do well for those who come to watch you, but sometimes it doesn’t always fall into place as nicely as that.

“Fans are more than entitled to their opinions, but it does rag you because you don’t get to actually impress the supporters who have travelled that far.”

After the opening day defeat in Killarney, McGeary went on start every game for Tyrone and is now a mainstay of Harte’s team.

It wasn’t until the latter stages of last year’s Championship campaign - when the Red Hands made it to the All-Ireland final - that the 23-year-old nailed down a starting spot, despite a string of impressive cameos from the bench.

And McGeary insists that, no matter what his role on Sunday, the aim is always the same; to make a positive impact and try and swing the pendulum in Tyrone’s favour.

He said: “Games are becoming that tight now that the players coming onto the field do tip the scales.

“Last year I remember coming on against Dublin in the Super 8s; we didn’t win the game, but I was happy with my performance and the impact I made. From that, any chance I got, I wanted to make an impact and try and tip the scales in our favour.”

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