Search icon


28th Mar 2024

Five positives Tyrone can take from National League despite demoralising defeat to Dublin

Lee Costello


It isn’t all doom and gloom.

Tyrone lost to Dublin last weekend by a jaw-dropping 21 points, an uncommon margin when it comes to Division One football, and even more uncommon when it comes to the Red Hand county.

Brian Dooher’s men have climbed to the mountain top when winning the All-Ireland back in 2021, and they have fallen great heights as well, but the journey to success is rarely linear.

It’s difficult to look at a scoreline that tells you in black and white that your team had conceded five goals, scored none, and were largely uncompetitive in the match, but context is key, and Tyrone’s goals for this league campaign were not to beat Dublin.

Five positives Tyrone can take from National League despite demoralising defeat to Dublin.

Their priorities lay elsewhere as a team in transition, and although it might be hard to see past that shocking scoreline, it is important to highlight that other, more important boxes were ticked off.

Securing Division One status.

When Tyrone lined out for their opening league game against Roscommon, and you noticed the age profile of the squad as well as the absentees through injury, it would have been easy to start panicking a little.

It was clear from the off that the ambition wasn’t to compete for the league title, and that solidifying D1 status with so many youngsters and injured players missing, would be a massive achievement that not only sets them up for the championship, but for next season as well.

Unearthing new talent.

The realisation hit home last season that the team cannot be completely reliant on the players from the successful ’21 year to do everything, particularly as so many of that panel have now left, and others are getting older or dealing with injuries.

It was imperative that Dooher was able to bring through some of the u20s that lifted their All-Ireland two years ago, and the likes of Seanie O’Donnell, Ciaran Daly, Niall Devlin, Aodhan Donaghy and Ben Cullen have all successfully made that jump.

More importantly, they were able to fill gaps when there were injuries to the likes of Conn Kilpatrick, Conor Meyler, Peter Harte, Darren McCurry and Michael McKernan, so with much needed experience now under their belts, and those injured stars returning, the squad as a whole looks much stronger than last year.

Mattie Donnelly’s return.

When Mattie Donnelly picked up a serious injury last summer playing for Trillick, his future as an inter-county footballer was thrown into doubt, but the former Tyrone captain is made from something special and not only returned before the championship, but managed to get two league games under his belt.

Donnelly has been vital to everything that has been good about Tyrone over the past decade, and his leadership in the squad is plain to see for everyone, so to have him back, motoring well, and available for the full championship, is absolutely huge.

The Ulster team now have a month before they have to play in the provincial championship, so Donnelly and the other injured stars like Kilpatrick, Harte and Meyler all have some time to get their bodies right, and really ambush teams this summer.

The Deadly Darragh-Darren duo.

Darragh Canavan has arguably been the Player of the League in 2024, as he has put in performances that can only be described as magical. The Errigal Ciaran star has propelled himself into the conversation of being one of the country’s top forwards.

Darren McCurry was injured for the beginning of the season, but when he returned, it quickly became the Darragh and Darren show, as their second-half display against Mayo in particular was somehow ruthless and beautiful at the same time.

Similarly, they were far too much for Monaghan, and if both boys are fit and firing for the rest of the campaign, then there isn’t a single defender in Ireland who wouldn’t be concerned about stopping that pairing.

The focal point of Cathal McShane.

As magical as the two corner forwards are, they both lack that bit of size, physicality and presence when it comes to being an out and out full forward, but it is something that Cathal McShane offers in abundance.

The flying forward has been tortured with injuries over the past two years, and when he has played, it’s when he has been out of sync and out of rhythm, meaning we haven’t seen the best of him.

However, if Tyrone can get a fully functional and fit forward line of McCurry, McShane and Canavan, with youngsters like O’Donnell, Daly and Ruairi Canavan playing on the peripheral of them, then they will have an attacking force capable of mass destruction.

An All-Star in 2019, and one of the most impactful substitutes in the history of any All-Ireland winning team back in 2021, you cannot underestimate the value that this man can bring to the team.

Going into the championship, Tyrone are the team with one of the highest ceilings, but also the lowest bases, meaning that they can reach dizzying heights, or crash to desperate lows – as we saw against Dublin.

Nonetheless, throughout the league as a whole, there have been more positives than negatives, and with a bit of luck and that famous Tyrone siege mentality, then they could enjoy a long summer yet.

WATCH: Liverpool BOTTLED the title race 🤬 | Who will win the Premier League?