Justin McMahon insists that Tyrone have plenty of positives to take into the All-Ireland qualifier series.
A fourth successive provincial defeat to Donegal has sent the Red Hands down the scenic route, but McMahon believes their display at Ballybofey gives them every reason to be optimistic about the months ahead.
“You have to take the positives out of the game. You have to take that into the qualifiers.
“he qualifiers are so unpredictable, you just don’t know where you’re going to end up, and there are other teams there that will be in it at early stages that will be difficult to beat.
“It’s just part and parcel of where we are at the minute.
“We just have to take positives out of that game, and work on them, and hopefully bring them into the qualifiers.”
The former All-Star full-back carried out a velcro-style man-marking job on Michael Murphy, holding the Donegal skipper scoreless from play.
But it was Murphy’s three converted frees in the final 15 minutes that effectively won the game for the Ulster champions.
Asked about his own display, McMahon avoided direct reference to his duel with Murphy.
“When you have played in so many games, it’s not about me.
“We’re so disappointed we got beaten. We came with the intention of winning. We had great belief in ourselves, and we didn’t achieve that. It’s disappointing.
“You’ve got to give credit to Donegal. They’re very good at closing the game out, keeping the ball, and they just finished it out well at the end.”
The Tyrone players desperately wanted to push for an Ulster title, having failed to win provincial honours since 2010, but their MacCumhaill Park defeat sees them enter the qualifiers for a fifth successive season.
“It would be nice to get back competing for an Ulster title again.
“It’s been a long time since our last bit of success.
“gain, that was something that we thought at the start of the year that we wanted to achieve, but that’s the way it went first round, and let’s just get on with it.”
During training sessions at secret locations in recent weeks, Mickey Harte had devised methods to break the Donegal code and neutralise their famed defensive system, and they looked capable of pulling off a shock result when they went ahead late in the first half.
“That’s what it was going to take to have any chance against Donegal. They play a high energy game, and we came with that intention of trying to put more pressure on them.
“Having been here in the league, we learned a lot, and we worked on a number of things in training, and it seemed to pay off early on in the game.
“But as the game wore on, they were able to find that wee bit more space, and they were clinical, with a couple of their frees at the end.
“Credit to them, they won the game, and that’s the way it is. We just have to move on, and see where we are in the next couple of weeks.”
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