McGarrity: Tyrone gradually getting back to their best

Tyrone's Conor Meyler and Mayo's Aidan O'Shea during the Allianz Football League Division One match at Healy Park. Former Red Hand Ronan McGarrity believes the team should battling qualities against Mayo which will stand to them as the year goes on Picture: Philip Walsh.

FORMER Tyrone defender Ronan McGarrity believes the All-Ireland champions are close to renewing the levels of performance that brought them the ultimate success last season.

Still threatened by relegation, the Red Hands need a result from their bogey venue in Killarney this weekend, but McGarrity is confident they can deny Division One finalists Kerry victory.

A battling win over Mayo secured crucial League points, and there were signs that key components of the team were functioning again after a few difficult weeks.

“I saw glimpses of it. we saw Mattie Donnelly back, Rory Brennan back in harness and I thought a few of the main men from last year were showing signs that they’re going the right way again,” said McGarrity.

“Petey [Harte] was very good, Frank Burns had a superb first half, McGeary was coming back more like himself, Conor Meyler more like himself, and Conn Kilpatrick made a few brilliant driving runs through the middle.

“And Brian Kennedy was a big loss in the middle of the field when he went off. He turned over an enormous amount of ball in the first half and driving forward provided a big physical presence.

“There were a lot of positives coming out of it, and hopefully they can keep on building on it.”

With an Anglo-Celt Cup opener against Fermanagh just over three weeks away, McGarrity, who played in the 1995 All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin, believes fine-tuning for Championship is an immediate priority.

And a strong finish to the League would represent the ideal preparation for Tyrone’s defence of their Ulster and All-Ireland titles.

“If they get a good result this weekend, they’ll be safe, and that’s probably the best preparation they can get, winning League matches.

“The idea that you can bed in a wee bit after a League and tease a few things out over a couple of months, that’s not going to happen.

“Championship is just four weeks away, so it doesn’t give an awful lot of time.”

While the Carrickmore man doesn’t see any clear favourite for the Sam Maguire Cup in 2022, he accepts that the holders face a massive task in attempting to retain their crown.

“There’s certainly no dominant team in Ireland, but they will certainly be up against it this year. I think it’s going to be a massive ask.”

No Tyrone team has successfully defended an All-Ireland title, a statistic that places added pressure on the reigning champions.

“It think it’s probably something that’s prevalent in almost every All-Ireland winning team.

“Tyrone were in America six weeks ago, and everybody else had probably got at least six weeks of training ahead of them.

“When you win something like that, you deserve to enjoy it, but hopefully now, with another reasonable result next weekend, it will be all guns blazing for the Championship.”

But McGarrity saw something in the Red Hands’ battling display against Mayo last weekend to suggest that they have the necessary fore in the belly to gibe this year’s series a massive go.

“I through the performance in the first half was superb, I thought in general it was a massive improvement, especially in the last 10 minutes when their backs were against the wall.

“They showed a bit of resolve and finished strongly.

“The only thing that mattered was getting the two points, and with those two points in the bag, it leaves them in a better position.”

Tyrone are one of five teams still in danger of making the drop to Division Two, with just one round of games to play.

Sunday’s ties will all be played at the same time, and a fascinating afternoon lies in store, with all but one of the eight Division One sides having something to play for, the exception being Kerry, who have already qualified for the final.

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