GAA: Big encounters ahead for Tyrone in National Football League

Connor McAliskey feels the pain after a challenge by Derry's Gerard O'Kane. All pictures by William Cherry/
Connor McAliskey feels the pain after a challenge by Derry's Gerard O'Kane. All pictures by William Cherry/

Tyrone’s McKenna Cup final with Cavan may have been rained off at the weekend, but the Red Hands don’t have much time for rest as they are right back into National Football League action.

A trip to Celtic Park in Derry is first on the list for Mickey Harte and his players with their recent McKenna Cup clash still fresh in the minds of both players and supporters.

It’s the first of two important clashes for Tyrone before a three week break with beaten All Ireland finalists Mayo making the trip to Omagh the following week.

Tyrone’s attitude to the National League has shifted noticeably over the past couple of seasons with Mickey Harte placing much greater emphasis on the competition as he seeks to find a winning combination ahead of the championship.

Harte may have to experiment again this year with the availability of some of his more established stars as yet unknown.

Newly appointed team captain Sean Cavanagh appeared to suggest in a recent interview that he may miss the first couple of games of the league as he seeks to manage a groin injury, while veterans Stephen O’Neill and Conor Gormley are also doubtful to feature in the early stages of the League.

Having won promotion out of Division Two, two seasons ago, Tyrone were one of the favourites for relegation at this point last season. However, some excellent displays especially away from home, saw Tyrone not only survive in the Division but also reach the league final where they lost out to Dublin.

Tyrone might well need improved home performances this season, with defeats to Kerry and particularly Cork last season, both in Healy Park, raising cause for concern.

Tyrone face long journey’s to both Cork and Kerry during the course of the league, as well as trips to Newbridge to face Kildare and Saturday night’s Celtic Park clash.

With home ties against both All Ireland finalists Dublin and Mayo and a visit from newly promoted Westmeath, Mickey Harte will know a lot more about his sqaud come April 6th.

February 1st

Derry v Tyrone

Celtic Park, 7pm

February 9th

Tyrone v Mayo

Healy Park, 2pm

March 2nd

Kildare v Tyrone

Newbridge, 2pm

March 9th

Kerry v Tyrone

Killarney, 2pm

March 16th

Tyrone v Westmeath

Healy Park, 2pm

March 30th

Cork v Tyrone

Pairc Ui Rinn

April 6th

Tyrone v Dublin

Healy Park, 3pm