CONNOR McAliskey recognises that Tyrone simply must produce the goods against Kildare this Sunday if they’re to avoid being sucked into a fight for survival.
The mood is one of pensiveness after back-to-back league defeats to Galway and Dublin, even if they produced a markedly improved performance against the All-Ireland Champions at a dank Healy Park on Saturday evening.
Division One newcomers Kildare have a similar lamentation following successive defeats to Dublin and Monaghan in their opening matches.
Something has to give and McAliskey assures that Tyrone will move heaven and earth to get a positive result at the third time of trying.
“To say that it’s a must win game is an understatement.
“They are in a similar position to us with nothing to show for their efforts from two outings and we need to get points on the board and begin to climb up the table.
“It’s a way too early to talk about relegation but there is no doubt whoever loses on Sunday is in trouble. From our point of view we have still tough games with Monaghan, Mayo, Donegal and Kerry coming up but all the focus is on Kildare this weekend.”
The talented Tyrone marksman made hay against a relatively charitable Dublin defence in the first-half of their eventual 2-13 to 1-11 defeat.
Two neat points – one from the left flank, one from the right – got the crowd purring, while he also linked up well with an on-song Lee Brennan.
It all unravelled after the break, however, as the Dubs showed that they are just as well-versed in the art of defending en masse.
McAliskey said: “I felt that we responded very well on Saturday night after our defeat in Tuam.”
It seemed like Tyrone and Kildare played each other every other day during the early-to-middle part of the noughties.
The Red Hands generally held the upper hand and McAliskey cites a smash-and-grab victory down in Newbridge in 2014 when Tyrone overcame a five-point deficit in injury time with goals from Ronan O’Neill and Mark Donnelly.
“Newbridge is never an easy venue to get a result in. Tyrone have had some great battles in recent times with Kildare, not least in my first season at senior level back in 2014 when we produced a smash and grab in the league to come from five points down in injury time to beat them with a Mark Donnelly goal.
“The changing rooms in Newbridge are small and the pitch is tight so we are under no illusions that a real battle lies ahead for us.”
The Lilywhites have undergone a dramatic transformation in recent years with the likes of Chris Healy, Johnny Byrne, Kevin Flynn and David Slattery making a successful transition from the underage ranks.
Manager Cian O’Neill labelled his side’s decision-making ‘awful’ in the wake of their one-point defeat to Monaghan at the weekend and they will be as desperate as Tyrone to get the tonic of a first win this weekend.
“Kildare are in the same situation as ourselves so they will be fighting for their lives. We watched their first game against Dublin on TV and they were very impressive in the first half, much like ourselves. Last weekend they matched Monaghan all the way and missed a couple of chances in injury time that would have saw them take something from the game.”
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