Mickey Harte expects his players to draw on their vast experience of the qualifiers and use it to inject positive energy into today’s clash with Kildare.
The Tyrone boss has navigated many tricky back-door routes in his 17 seasons in charge, and with a success rate standing in excess of 90%, no manager has a greater insight into the pitfalls and opportunities that lurk along the way. But he accepts that performance levels will have to rise if they are to survive a massive Newbridge test.
“We have a good bit of experience of playing those type of games, which has to stand to us to some extent.
“That should give us confidence going into a must-win game like Saturday that we can perform well. If we do that then we will be ourselves a really fighting chance of being in the round four draw on Monday.”
The Lilywhites ended Mayo’s season at St Conleth’s Park last season, and with another top team on its way to the compact venue, they will need little motivation to find a big performance.
“They are traditionally a very good team in the Qualifiers. We all know they have a lot of quality footballers,” he said.
Kildare are a good team, there’s no doubt about it. They have bounced about between Divisions 1 and 2.
“Many people have suggested they have underperformed and should be a top division team all of the time. Some days when you look at them you can see why that would be the case but other times they don’t seem to perform to the level you would expect of them.
“They seem to be a good qualifier team as well. If you look back at their period under Kieran McGeeney, their record was always very strong.
“A bit like ourselves when they get knocked out of the provincial championships, they are able to regroup and pick things up in the qualifiers. So it will be a huge challenge.”
With confidence dented following a disappointing Ulster SFC semi-final defeat to Donegal, Harte was relieved to avoid one of the higher ranked teams in the qualifiers.
A comfortable yet unconvincing win over Longford got them over the first hurdle, and now it’s about building the sort of momentum that carried them all the way to last year’s All-Ireland final, following a first round provincial exit.
“I suppose a game against Longford was one we were expected to win but we also had to give them great respect because of the record they have in qualifiers too. They had beaten serious teams in the past like Derry, Monaghan, Down so we had to be wary of them and we had to play well to beat them.
“This now will be another step up again when we play Kildare. But you expect things to get harder as you progress. If we do come through this game, we are only going to face a harder test again still. So it will be an upward trend in terms of the quality of the opposition if we want to work out way through the qualifiers.”
The Tyrone players will be in familiar surroundings this evening, having played several NFL ties in Kildare.
“We know the ground, we have been there a number of times over the past number of years. It is a compact ground and the crowd are in near the pitch and create a great atmosphere. We will be hoping that plenty of Tyrone people come along and create a good atmosphere for us too.”