Why Tyrone's five week break might just save their season
Tyrone have only shown flashes of their potential this season.
The All-Ireland champions exited the McKenna Cup in the early stages, before struggling their way through the league.
After drawing with Monaghan, then losing emphatically to Armagh, they finally managed to nick a win against Kildare, but it was a bit too close to the blade.
A wounded Dublin came to Healy Park in what many thought would be the springboard for the the Red Hands as there was no better time to play the capital than now.
However, ill-discipline, and a lack of creativity meant that the Boys in Blue, won comfortably and the champions looked lost.
In typical Tyrone fashion, they then managed two impressive victories over Mayo, and Kerry in Killarney of all places, and things looked rosey again for the Ulster side.
Fermanagh was easily dispatched off in the preliminary round of the provincial championship, and up next was Derry, a team that Tyrone have made a habit of beating, and beating well.
Despite an impressive league campaign, the Oakleaf county were still in Division Two, had just lost Ciaran McFaul from the panel, and Emmet Bradley was too injured too start the game, so pundits, spectators, and journalists alike, all tipped Brian Dooher ad Feargal Logan's men to get the job done.
What happened next had shades of the Kerry debacle last year in Killarney, as a lacklustre Tyrone team completely ran out of ideas against a team that was priming with desire, intensity, and passion.
It was as though everything that was brilliant about this side last season, which saw them lift the Sam Maguire, had been drained from them, bottled up, and sold to Derry in large supply.
More red cards, more poor performances from key players, and more questions left lingering over the squad, as they now limp into in the qualifiers.
Their early exit from Ulster may be a saving grace however, as the five week break will allow this Tyrone team to actually have a prolonged training camp, almost an in-season-pre-season of sorts.
Since lifting the holy grail in September last year, they were afforded the luxury of a two week holiday in the USA, fully deserved of course, but they had no sooner landed back in Ireland before they were thrust into the McKenna Cup, just a couple of days later.
From that point on they were chasing their tails, trying to get sharpness and fitness in the thick of a season, rather than before it, and the cohesiveness that is so diligently worked on, alongside conditioning in pre-season, was clearly not up to its usual standards.
Their whole game is based around frantic intensity, desperation to get the ball overturned, and then manically attacking the opposition in numbers.
It's a very difficult style to execute, because it involves a 100% buy in of commitment, both in training and on match day.
These five weeks will have given the players an opportunity to reassess, reflect and rectify the short comings that we have seen as of late.
On the other hand, Kieran McGeeney's Armagh side are hurting every bit as badly, and the pressure is undoubtedly on them, especially after such an exciting start to their league campaign.
The Orchard county are all out of excuses, as the time to perform in championship is now, and their disappointing display against Donegal will have been a huge blow to them
For the first time in over a decade, it felt like they were going up against a Donegal side as equals, rather than the plucky underdogs, but their failure to live up the expectation will either drive them or scar them.
What is going in their favour is the fact that key men such as Rian O'Neill, and Jarleth Og Burns have been delivering more often than not, while players that Tyrone were so dependent on last year can't seem to rediscover their form.
Cathal McShane was pretty much a sure thing to get a goal when he entered the fray in 2021, but is struggling to find that dead eye that was once so clinical.
The introduction of Tyrone u20 players such Michael McGleenan and Ruairi Canavan, will also bolster the panel, add a bit of energetic exuberance and some of that winning mentality following their All-Ireland success last month.
Both teams are playing to save their season, because make no mistake about it, defeat on Sunday for either of these counties can only be concluded as a disastrous season for them, while a win will give them a springboard to resurrect their campaign.