McNamee fears Tyrone ‘have a target on our backs’

On their day, Tyrone are a match for any opponent, but on an off-day, anything can happen.

Championship football, with its unpredictability and devilish capacity to surprise, is upon us, and as Ronan McNamee treads nervously towards Sunday’s Ulster SFC opener, nothing is being taken for granted.

The Red Hand full-back insists last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists must be on their game, otherwise NFL Division Four champions Derry could cause quite a stir at Healy Park.

“I’ve always been blessed to be part of a strong side. I think if we have our own house in order, no matter who the opposition is, we would be confident of beating them, regardless if it was Derry or whoever you were playing,” said McNamee.

“Derry are going to be coming prepared. They’ll be confident no doubt that they have the tools to upset us but I know we have the tools to upset anybody.

If we have our house in order I think we will get through to the next round.

Tyrone go in as overwhelming favourites to clear this preliminary round hurdle, but that was the case also on the last occasion the counties met in the Championship at Omagh.

Derry crossed the Sperrins to tackle the reigning All-Ireland champions in 2006 and emerged with a stunning victory that nobody saw coming.

“We got to the All-Ireland final last year so we probably have a target on our backs. It was the same back then. Tyrone came sauntering in after winning the All-Ireland and got beaten, so we have to make sure the same doesn’t happen to us. If we are at it I would be confident that we will be good enough to beat them. I’m not saying it’s going to be a walk in the park, it’s far from it, as the Ulster Championship is hard-hitting and a good, competitive province.”

And with nothing to lose, expectations low on Derry’s part, the pressure is all on a Tyrone side that lost on home soil in last year’s championship first round tie to Monaghan.

“You will get hung if you lose and no credit if you win it. They have absolutely nothing to lose. They can just go out and give it a rattle and if it’s good enough it’s good enough. It’s a good position for them to be in.”

McNamee feels Derry are on their way back following a couple of disastrous seasons which saw them slide all the way to the bottom tier of the NFL.

“They have serious players. You would be an idiot to think that we will cruise past them. You would expect them to bite back at some stage. We’ve played them twice in the McKenna Cup this year and beat them. The first day was with the new rules and the second day it was a lot tighter. Going into the last 10 minutes there was only four points in it. We sprung a few boys from the bench which helped us get over the line.”

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