Kieran McGeary confident that Tyrone can enjoy another prolonged Qualifier run

Defeat to Donegal has forced Tyrone down the Qualifier route again, but Kieran McGeary (left) feels last year's experience will be a positive Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
By Francis Mooney

KIERAN McGeary believes last year’s run from the opening round of the Qualifiers all the way to the All-Ireland final can help Tyrone deal with the challenges that lie ahead.

A back-door clash with Longford on Saturday week marks the beginning of what the Red Hands hope will be another extended journey.

“It could be another nice long road, we take each game as it comes. We’ll see what happens,” he said.

The Pomeroy man blossomed with a string of outstanding displays as Tyrone gathered momentum through the Qualifiers and the inaugural Super 8s, but he would prefer to be taking the more direct route this time.

“It’s a journey we never wanted to be back on this year, but look, we’re there.

“We will regroup and we’ll just have to put the heads down and go again. That’s the journey we’re on.”

A painful defeat at the hands of Donegal last weekend ended Tyrone’s provincial Championship ambitions, with Declan Bonner’s side negating the key strategies of last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists.

McGeary rejected suggestions that the Donegal boss had tactically outwitted his counterpart Mickey Harte.

“I wouldn’t say they caught us sleeping. We prepared for the game and we prepared well, but they took their chances.

“If we had taken the goal chances that we had in the first half, this could have been a different story and I could be talking otherwise. But we didn’t.

“I suppose everybody thought the first 15 minutes was going to be a guessing game between both teams, that we were going to be seeing what each other had, and then we would be opening up in the later stages. But no, they had other plans.

“Ulster is out of the equation this year, Donegal could be going for two from two, and I wish them all the best in the final.”

Shaun Patton’s kick-outs kept the reigning champions on the front foot, and while Tyrone struggled to deal with them, footage will be scrutinised in detail by Cavan manager Mickey Graham ahead of the Anglo-Celt Cup final.

“It was clearly something they have worked on, and worked on well. It will get them places this year,” said McGeary.

“But now I think it’s out there. Cavan will definitely be preparing for that kick-out strategy, so it’s entirely up to them whether they keep it or change it.”

An early setback rocked a Tyrone side that had won its three previous Championship encounters with Donegal, Jamie Brennan firing home a goal after just four minutes.

With plenty of time to regroup, McGeary was confident the Red Hands could recover and respond, but it never happened.

“I would never say we panicked whenever it hit the net. We obviously thought we could nip our way back.

“It was a great finish, clearly something they had worked on, that ball over the top looking for his burst of speed and finishing ability. He took the goal well.

“They got a nice strong lead, plenty of powerful running, plenty of good shots and good scores, and they held us. Credit where credit is due.”

A second blow a short time after the goal saw Peter Harte pick up a black card, forcing a hasty reappraisal of the approach, minus one of the side’s key members.

“It was a massive blow. If you know Peter Harte, you know that it was never intentional. But look, rules are rules.

“I didn’t actually see what happened, I just saw the card being shown to Petey, and it was a huge disappointment.

“But it wasn’t the be-all and end-all in the game. We have a really, really strong bench and ammunition to come on, and they came on and did well.

“If you lose someone of Petey’s experience, it’s difficult to pull it back at that early stage.”

Meanwhile, the GAA yesterday cleared Corrigan Park to host Antrim’s SFC Qualifier against Kildare on Saturday week.

After the draw pitted the Saffrons against Kildare on Monday morning, the GAA conducted a safety report on the venue, which can host a maximum of 2,600 people, and the Antrim County Board confirmed yesterday that the game had been given the go-ahead and will be all-ticket.

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