MICKEY Harte might have been tempted to throw the baby out with the bathwater after the Cathal McShane experiment hit the rocks against Donegal, but the decision not to waver from the strategy paid off big-style against Longford.
The Tyrone target-man scored two early goals to completely knock the stuffing out of Longford in last Saturday’s Round Two qualifier victory, and he added two delicately taken points from play to show that he’s more than a one-man wrecking ball.
Even through Tyrone looked in total control for 95 percent of proceedings, Longford hit a late scoring burst of 1-3 without reply, so it turned out that McShane’s first-half goals were pretty important in the final reckoning.
“I was very happy to see them go in the net. We worked the ball in and we got the most out of it. We got six points from it and we were happy going in at the break. Obviously with them getting the goal at the end, there’s work to be done.”
Longford were able to call upon a recent history of knocking out higher ranked teams in the backdoor, while they took Kildare to a replay in this year’s Leinster Championship, so McShane says complacency was never going to be a factor in their performance.
At times Tyrone brought 15 men behind the ball, something which was flagged up in the post-match analysis as Tyrone going back to basics after their sterile performance against Donegal, but it seemed to work a treat as Longford only managed a single point from play in the first-half.
“I think it’s important to take every team seriously, they never gave up against Kildare when they were six or seven points down, they got a draw and probably could’ve sneaked a win. Obviously in the replay Kildare got the win, but it’s important to respect every team, every man is working hard and we’re working as a team to get to win the ball back. If that involves getting men back so be it but we’re trying to get up the pitch as much as possible at the moment as well.”
Tyrone’s Round Three qualifier against Kildare will probably give a better indication as to whether they have ironed out their tactical issues which flared up against Donegal, but McShane says there’s no reason why can’t safely navigate the qualifiers for a second successive season.
“It’s important that we set out a marker and got back on track, I think we did that, we got the win which is all-important. We didn’t plan for the Donegal result, we wanted to be in the Ulster final, but it is what it is and we have to move on. The win sets us in the right direction, last year we went through the qualifiers so there’s no reason why we can’t do the same again and get another strong run.”
Tyrone were characterised as a running team for much of the decade, but their new strategy of kicking the ball into McShane saw them gain plaudits from the pundits out there for their new-found old school approach. In reality, McShane says, that they’re a team which is seeking to utilise both tactics whenever fits.
“It’s a bit of both, we can run it and we have the kicking option as well. I think we both did well, obviously there’s areas we can improve too. We just have to get it right for the next day out, we’d men missing as well and we’d new lads coming in, it’s all about players getting their chance and taking it.”