Tyrone will have a watchful eye on Armagh this Saturday ahead of Omagh showdown

Darren McCurry of Tyrone in action against Shane Walsh of Galway over the weekend. Photo: Ray Ryan/Sportsfile

John Campbell

Tyrone have been left with much food for thought ahead of their All-Ireland Group 2 round-robin match against Armagh on Saturday week in Omagh.

Successive defeats to Monaghan in the Ulster championship semi-final and Galway in their opening round-robin encounter have cast a shadow over preparations for their meeting with the Orchard County.

The fact that their attack only managed three points from play against the Tribesmen, coupled with the possibility of Frank Burns missing the tie through suspension, means Red Hands management duo Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan do not have their sorrows to seek right now.

Yet with the side having only lost to Galway by three points (0-16 to 0-13), this is being viewed as the outcome of a show of character and concentration considering the well-chronicled setbacks that were endured as the game unfurled.

Nonetheless, Tyrone’s must-win mission against Armagh has already assumed an added edge – notwithstanding Kieran McGeeney’s set-to with Westmeath on Saturday.

Darren McCurry, who landed seven points in all versus Galway with five coming from frees, was joined by old hand Mattie Donnelly (0-1) in assembling the three points scored from play against the Tribesmen, a statistic that will certainly trigger a call for an improvement against Armagh. Darragh Canavan was restricted to merely two points from frees against Galway but has shown himself to be capable of much better, while Conor Meyler, Cormac Quinn and Peter Harte contributed a point each from the half-back line. The possibility of a third successive reverse at the hands of Armagh triggers real fear in the Tyrone camp as they bid to regain lost ground.

Frustratingly for Tyrone, they cut the deficit against Galway to two points on two occasions, but their opponents were able to push and claim the upper hand.

“We were two men down for a period, but we hung in and hung in, we just couldn’t get the bounce on them in the end and maybe sneak a goal,” declared joint-boss Logan.

“There’s a lot of character in those players, we have seen that in spades over the years. They showed it again on this occasion even when the conditions were not ideal for football either and we just came up short. The hunger is there, we hope to go on better from here.”

It’s certain that Logan and Dooher will put Armagh under the microscope when they face Westmeath in their opening round-robin clash at the Athletic Grounds on Saturday.

Armagh lost to Derry in a dramatic Ulster final following a penalty shoot-out, and now they are particularly keen to deliver a convincing performance against a Westmeath outfit which could prove tough opponents before Tyrone loom yet again on the Orchard horizon.

There is speculation that Tyrone could still be a force in the concluding stages of the All-Ireland series, but this could subside somewhat should Armagh reign supreme at Omagh in what promises to be a fascinating championship encounter.

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