"Discipline was not where it was last year" - McKernan says Tyrone must improve discipline against Armagh 6 months ago

"Discipline was not where it was last year" - McKernan says Tyrone must improve discipline against Armagh

Tyrone followed up a mediocre League campaign with a bad start to the championship but they still have one more chance.

They'll be hoping that's all they need. It's last chance saloon now - it's do-or-die in the All-Ireland qualifiers - and with a trip to Armagh on the cards this Sunday, the reigning champs will put their title on the line.

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More importantly, both teams will be putting their seasons on the line and, when you consider that there were no fewer than five red cards when they last met - in the National League back in February - you would be expecting a competitive affair.

Armagh came out on top that day but, despite impressing for parts of their League campaign, they too had a disappointing start to the championship when they were given a seven point beating, and a lesson by Donegal.

So there will be no shortage of motivation for either team in the Athletic Grounds this Sunday and, speaking at the launch of the championship in Croke Park during the week, Michael McKernan says that among other things, keeping disciplined is something Tyrone have been focusing on over the last few weeks.

Let's not forget, on top of the four red cards in that League game, they've also had three in just two championship games so far, with Conor McKenna getting the road against both Fermanagh and Derry, while Brian Kennedy was also given his marching orders against the Oak Leaf. Padraig Hampsey and Kieran McGeary also saw red at different stages during the League.

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“Derry just taught us a lesson that day,” said McKernan. “But look, we've had five or six weeks of hard training. We've reviewed our season to date and we've looked at the discipline aspect, just probably the basic skills and concentration within games as well.

“We knew throughout the league the discipline was maybe not where it was last year, with the red cards. But even basic skills, tackling and stuff like that there, giving the ball away," he added.

“We maybe weren't holding ourselves to the high standards that we were last year. We had a red card against Fermanagh and we had a red card against Derry so that's one of the major things that we're looking at. It's maybe shown a lack of focus as well as discipline. No, that's one of the main things that we're looking at and trying to improve on.”

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As for the exodus that has seen players like Ronan O'Neill, Lee Brennan and co. leave the panel, McKernan says it's not something you could blame the team's poor form on.

“No, I don't think it did,” he says. “Those boys all had personal reasons, a lot of them were getting married or moving into homes. They have been great servants to Tyrone over the last number of years. No, I think there's still a strong panel and there have been new boys brought in at the start of this year.

“We have brought in some U-20s now that have strengthened it even more. They're pushing on. We had the U-17s at the weekend, and the U-20s who won Ulster and All-Ireland this year, so look, those boys (over winter) were leaving, they had their time and it was just their time to move on. There are new boys coming through and they're pushing it on now.”

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But for now, McKernan is just gunning for Sunday.

"Even for the neutral it's good,” he says.

“In Armagh, it's not a nice place for any team to go to. Their fans get behind them and the last game will be in the back of our minds probably. We've played them twice this year and they've beat us twice.

“We know the challenge that we're faced by. But look, it's something to look forward to, for us, for Tyrone fans and even for Armagh fans. Just in general, GAA people can look forward to it too.”

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