By Barry O’Donnell
LINING out at Croke Park against Monaghan and now set to face Kerry at the same venue provide the sort of marquee fixtures which justified Conor McKenna’s decision to pack his bags and leave the professional set up of Essendon in Australia to return home.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s eagerly anticipated All-Ireland semi-final showdown against the Kingdom, the former AFL star said: “These are the sort of games that I came home from Australia looking to play in. Winning the Ulster title there against Monaghan was special. Croke Park is where you dreamed of playing when you were younger. There will be 25,000 again there on Saturday, it definitely felt loud in the Ulster final and I’m sure it will be the same again.”
“We played well at times against Donegal and then in the Ulster final against Monaghan we were good in the first half and struggled a bit in the second half when we just slowed up. There is no way that we can afford to do that against Kerry.”
He is under no illusions that Tyrone must produce a more consistent display over the full 70 minutes against raging hot-favourites Kerry if they are to pull off a stunning upset.
“I think to beat Kerry you need a full 70 minutes of good football and we need to go out and give it everything that we have. Hopefully we can put that together but we will just have to see on Saturday.
“They are obviously a good team and in the last four or five years they have been one of the few teams to have really put it up to Dublin in the championship, just coming up short a few times.
“They are probably the team to beat in the remainder of the championship and we will have to be at our best to do that.”
With the latest medical bulletins from the Tyrone camp more positive after the well-documented Covid outbreak, McKenna bullish all the same about their prospects this weekend.
“Everybody is back training and looking forward to getting stuck into it. It probably wasn’t ideal preparation for the game but it’s not just us that are dealing with Covid this year, everybody is. It is a case of everybody knowing their role and playing it and doing it to the best of their ability. If we go out and gave it everything and come up short that is all that we can do but we will certainly be putting our best foot forward.”
See this week’s Strabane Chronicle for our full interview with Conor McKenna