By Barry O’Donnell
RECENT painful Championship losses against Donegal should act as a sufficient motivational tool to get Tyrone fired up for Sunday’s crunch Ulster semi-final, defender Michael McKernan believes.
The Tir Chonaill have enjoyed the upper hand on their bitter rivals over the past two seasons in the Anglo-Celt Cup series, taking the spoils in the semi-final in 2019 at Breffni Park and the first round at chilly Ballybofey last Halloween weekend, in what proved to be Mickey Harte’s last Championship match at the helm.
While the Red Hands had their opportunities in both of those encounters, ultimately they came up a distant second, and given they were also on the wrong end of the result in the League this season as well at Healy Park, they will head to Enniskilen determined to reverse that miserable trend.
“Donegal are always ready for Championship football and they’re always very good against us. I can’t remember the last time we beat them in Championship, so they have a bit of a bounce on us.
“And obviously getting Michael Murphy back is a huge bonus to them, so that’s another key player that we’ll have to watch out for.”
“They will be another step up, as they’re a Division One team and the rivalry is there between us. They have six forwards that are all dangerous and their defence is very good too.”
While Donegal manager Declan Bonner has introduced several exciting newcomers to their ranks this term, McKernan reckons that whatever the personnel, they will go into the contest feeling they have the psychological upper hand on Tyrone
“ They have the likes of Paddy McBrearty, who is back fully fit, Michael Murphy came back in on Sunday, and then they have the likes of Niall O’Donnell, and Hugh McFadden, who drops back.
“ All round, they’re a very good team in both defense and attacking, so it’s going to be a massive ask for us, especially on the recent record, they do have the bounce on us. All we can do is focus on ourselves and hopefully we’ll work around it.”