Tyrone’s former net minder Pascal McConnell hopes his county can bounce back after their recent defeat at the hands of Donegal in their Ulster semi final clash. The Red Hands travel to Longford this Saturday in the second round of the qualifiers with victory on their minds as they attempt to keep their All Ireland hopes alive but McConnell is under no illusions of the challenge Tyrone face.
“We played Longford back in 2011, back then I think Peter Harte was part of the team and played a fantastic game in Longford that night. It’s going to be tough, the qualifiers has been pretty good to them, they’ve pulled off a few big scalps and they’ll be buoyed on the back of that, if they get someone in their own backyard they do stand a punchers chance and they’ll possibly see Tyrone as a wounded animal and this is the chance to put them out of their misery”.
Tyrone were many people’s favourites to capture the Anglo Celt this season, however their four point loss two weeks ago has thrown huge question marks over the team and their new style of play. “Obviously on the back of the All Ireland final defeat last year we were hoping there would have been a kick back in the Tyrone team, especially to try and reach the provincial decider”.
“It’s very disappointing and I’m sure the lads reflecting on it would have been very disappointed, things didn’t click, game plans didn’t work out and some of the more established players just didn’t perform and it was just one of them days, you get that in football. It’s all about regrouping and hitting the qualifiers running”.
McConnell sees Mickey Harte sticking to his guns and continuing the same attacking game plan that Tyrone demonstrated throughout their league campaign and their opening championship victories over Derry and Antrim. “He’ll probably persevere; he probably won’t go for the knee jerk reaction and change things drastically for the qualifiers”.
“They’ll know first and foremost they didn’t perform (against Donegal) and Mickey would have been disappointed in the performance too. It’s a time to regroup and see where you’re at and a stage to try different things but I do think the general game plan we seen throughout the league and the more expansive football and the attacking football, they’ll probably still persist with that”.
The three time All Ireland winner sees Tyrone using the back door system to build some confidence and McConnell would like to see Tyrone’s attacking stars on the field for longer periods, “We know that there is a scoring threat on the bench, be it through Kyle Coney or Darren McCurry, it’s the chance to give them full games and more game time with an eye potentially on the Super 8s”.
“I would like to see more of the scoring power taking the field from the start because when you look at the Donegal game, you’d Conor McAliskey named, didn’t start and came on after 10 minutes. Darren McCurry then came on in the second half, a bit of a trend he’s being doing this past while but I’d like to see Darren on from the start because he is a scoring forward, he is sharp and he’s someone to assist Cathal McShane and possibly play off him because Cathal’s really set his stall out in terms of being a target man full forward”.
“When he’s going to win you primary ball as he’s occasionally done this year, I think if you’ve the likes of Conor McAliskey and Darren McCurry playing off him that Tyrone could wreak havoc if we see that but it’s down to what Mickey is going to put out on the field but personally I would like to see more scoring forwards on and really set a marker out from day one of the qualifiers”.
The opportunity to try out new players comes due to Tiernan McCann’s suspension and McConnell was able to see the positives that may come from an otherwise negative situation, “It opens the door for someone else to stake a claim, if we’re going to advance we’re going to need a full quota and delve into the subs so it’s going to be a chance to throw someone in there and give them a bit of game time”.
“There’s nothing better than games coming pretty quickly in the qualifiers and stake a claim and push the thing on because the established players like Tiernan, Mattie, Peter Harte, they need men chopping at their heels so if anyone is missing someone can step in and that was always Mickey’s way, he always put the challenge to the substitutes to really force the competition within the squad because it can only be better in the long run so it opens the door and gives someone a chance and there’s going to be a lot of games coming thick and fast”.
The Newtownstewart man sees Tyrone being too strong for their Leinster opponents and believes the scoring power which his county can avail of is enough to see them through, “I think Tyrone should have enough, I think we have enough scoring power”.