If Tyrone are to beat Down on Sunday their defence cannot afford to start in the same manner they started against Dublin in the final round of the league. With just 15 minutes gone, the ‘boys in blue’ had already registered three goals and Tyrone were on the ropes
One man who started in corner back that day, who will be hoping that the Red Hands can shore things up is Eglish defender Ryan McKenna.
He accepts that Tyrone need to concede fewer goals but believe the whole team must defend better as a unit.
“If you looked at the scorelines then you probably would say ‘yeah’. Conceding goals has been a problem especially towards the end of the league.
“In the Dublin game, three goals in the first 15 minutes can never be good for a defence. You can look at a scoreline and say it’s a defensive problem but we work as a team defensively and in attack. You can’t pinpoint one position or one line. We have to get the whole defensive element of our game better.”
He was joined by his brother Emmett on the Tyrone panel at the beginning of the year and younger brother Conor will be on the minor team for Sunday’s clash with Down.
Ryan’s looking forward to potentially starting his first Ulster championship match.
“Last year I didn’t get a chance to play in Ulster championship so Sunday would be my first championship match.
“We set out to win every competition we go into and you would hope this will be the first step in a long season. It would be nice to have something to hold, a medal or a trophy or whatever.”
Used as a halfback for much of 2013 league, Mickey Harte has since then deployed McKenna in full-back line.
McKenna, however, doesn’t care where he features, just happy to play his part.
“I’m happy to get a game just, to get a couple of minutes. There’s a lot of competition, you can’t really be picky about where you want to play.
“At club level I probably would prefer to be a half back but you get that many chances to go forward and defend you end up everywhere.
“It almost becomes irrelevant where you’re playing. You’re doing a lot of running, a lot of tackling and a lot of work. You just have to enjoy it.”
Playing against some improving Tyrone forwards in training has helped improve McKenna’s game:
“There are plenty of the forwards playing really well and it helps us as defenders to go up against the likes of Stephen O’Neill coming back there, Darren McCurry, Connor McAliskey, Kyle Coney.
“You don’t be going to a corner in training looking for an easy man to mark. I suppose all the players are different so each night you get a different test. It prepares you then for the opposition. You get no easy rides in training and it’s not going to get any easier in a game.”
McKenna hopes he can put that experience to good use.
“Having a game in Healy Park for the first in a while, my first in the championship, we’re not under an illusions that it’s going to be in any way easy. It’s a tough task” he stressed.