Brian Kennedy: Tyrone need to learn to see out games when in command
Brian Kennedy says Tyrone need to find a way to protect a lead and see out a tie when they are in control.
Game management left a lot to be desired as they allowed a six-point advantage to slip against 14-man Armagh, resorting to the high-risk strategy of running down the clock, and almost paid a heavy price.
It was only a last-ditch Michael McKernan tackle that averted disaster as they held on for a narrow two points victory and a first Championship win in five attempts.
“We need a bit more game management and find a way to see out games better, but it’s a learning process and hopefully we’re getting better,” said former All-Star midfielder Kennedy.
Victory over Westmeath in their final round robin game will guarantee a second place finish in the group, and home advantage for the All-Ireland SFC preliminary quarter-final, but Kennedy warned that the Leinster men will be no pushovers.
“I watched them against Armagh, they’re a very good team,” said Kennedy.
“They’re very lively, and John Heslin at full forward will cause us a lot of problems.
“They’re strong throughout, and it will be another big day down there against Westmeath. Hopefully we can regroup and get recovered and go down there and pick up points as well.”
The Carrick-on-Shannon encounter is an opportunity for Tyrone to build a level of fluency and momentum that will see them perform consistently from throw-in to final whistle.
“We were sorta going in fits and starts in that game (v Armagh). We were taking a few silly shots and that was giving Armagh momentum.”
Since winning the All-Ireland in 2001, Tyrone had lost four of their five Championship games, a losing streak that simply had to be halted against an Orchard side that ended their title defence last year.
“If we had lost, it would have been five straight Championship defeats in a row, so it was just good to get that run halted.
“It was a tough game, it was going to be nothing else coming in against Armagh, but once they had the man sent off, it was just about seeing the game out.
“We probably struggled in patches, but it was just good to get through it.”
The Orchard men, despite losing talisman Rian O’Neill to a straight red card, made the home side battle to the end for a narrow win.
“That’s typical Armagh, they’re never dead until the final whistle. Even at the very end, they had a half goal chance when we were trying to keep the ball.
“Full respect to Armagh, if they had had the full quota, the game would probably have panned out differently.
“They got the jump on us last year, they beat us twice, in League and Championship. It’s something that we wanted to address this year. We didn’t give a good account of ourselves last year, so it was an important win and we were just glad to get the points on the board in the series.”