TYRONE’S players are pushing each other harder in training in an effort to regain the momentum and forward that eluded them last season, says joint-manager Brian Dooher.
Speaking after his side had come from three points’ down against Cavan to win by five and progress to the McKenna Cup final, Dooher said the Tyrone players returned to pre-season training with “a real bounce in their step”.
That was apparent on Saturday night at Kingspan Breffni when a side made up of tried-and-tested All-Ireland winners and talented young hopefuls weathered an early Cavan storm and bossed the rest of the game.
They would have won comfortably but for a lengthy wide count but a late flurry of scores saw them comfortably over the line and they are now looking forward to their second meeting of the year with Rory Gallagher’s Derry on Saturday night.
“They have done everything that we have asked over the last six weeks’ or so at training,” said Dooher.
“They really put their shoulder to the wheel and they give their best every night they go out. That’s all we could ask – things won’t go right for everybody, everybody’s not going to come out and say: ‘I had a wonderful game’ but as long as they go out and work, work their socks’ off, that’s all we can ask for.”
Training hasn’t changed, said Dooher, but the players’ appetite for it has. After their Sam Maguire triumph in 2021 it was understandable that Tyrone would take their foot just slightly off the pedal last season. ‘Slightly’ was enough and results were disappointing but that was then and the Red Hand class of 2023 have the ‘pedal to the metal’ so far.
“We haven’t changed too much in training, we started a bit earlier maybe,” said Dooher.
“But it’s the players who are doing it. They’re an easy group to guide – they want to do well, they want to improve and I suppose it’s our place to give them that opportunity.
“They are a motivated bunch but every county team now is a fairly motivated bunch.”
Meanwhile, Mickey Graham, Dooher’s opposite number on Saturday night, says his county got what they needed out of the McKenna Cup. Cavan beat Division Three rivals Antrim in Portglenone and then Armagh on home soil to make the semi-finals.
Saturday night’s game against top flight opponents Tyrone was a very worthwhile exercise, says Graham and he is confident he’ll have injured trio Gearoid McKiernan, Paddy Lynch and James Smith back for the start of the National League.
“Hopefully they’ll be back in time for the Westmeath game,” he said.
“They’re three massive players for us and any team that was missing those three boys would be affected – you take Cathal McShane, Darren McCurry and Darragh Canavan out of Tyrone and they’d be the same.
“I have to say that the lads who have come in have shown up very well and you’d like to think that if Paddy, James and Gearoid were in there then those younger lads would thrive. There’s a few lads who have put their hand up for the League and you couldn’t fault the lads’ effort or their endeavour.
“We were down eight or nine fellas at the start of the year and all we wanted to do in this competition was to be competitive and that’s what we have been. So we’re happy with that.”