Tyrone’s McCrory sees the positive side of defensive dogfights

Tyrone defender Aidan McCrory has posed a question for supporters to ponder as they make their way to Ballybofey for Sunday’s Ulster SFC opener against Donegal.

It’s a poser aimed at those pundits and observers who despise and deride the style of football that has shaped the modern game.

Gaelic football’s perceived ills have been attributed to northern teams, particularly those participating in this weekend’s preliminary round tie at MacCumhaill Park.

But McCrory has challenged those perceptions, claiming a defensive dogfight can offer more in terms of endeavour, honesty and entertainment than an open, free-flowing score-laden exhibition.

“What is a negative game? What do you want to see? Do you want to see 20 points each, or do you want to see a real battle of a game where players are really testing themselves against each other?”

“It’s preliminary round Ulster Championship. Both teams are all-out to win, both teams will be going at it wholeheartedly,” he said.

“As a spectacle, it could be great viewing. I suppose it depends on what your view is on football.”

Donegal’s defensive system is technically more advanced than Tyrone’s. Designed by Jim McGuinness and implemented following his departure by Rory Gallagher, it has strangled the life out of many highly-rated attacking units.

Despite the raw simplicity of the strategy, it continues to prove supremely effective, particularly against the Red Hands, who have lost to their north-west neighbours in three of the last four championship seasons.

“Everyone has their own ideas about it. It’s an effective system, they have proven that. There’s no way to say, this is what you do to break it down. If there was, it wouldn’t have been as successful for as long a period,” said McCrory.

“We need to maintain our focus and try and work hard for the whole of the game, not get caught up in their tactics. We have to play our own game as well.”

Tyrone have considerable ground to make up, having crashed to a ten-point defeat when the sides met in the league two months ago. That was the low point. Although they lost their Division One status, perspective will demonstrate that a handful of impressive performances failed to garner the points they merited.

“In Ulster football, Donegal have been the pace-setters since Tyrone won their last Ulster title five years ago. “Against them that day in Ballybofey we didn’t play well, and they played extremely well. We would like to think that we’re somewhere in the middle of that. We’re not as bad as we were that day, but we have big improvements that we need to make.

“We had good performances, we had a good result against Mayo, but we had bad performances against Donegal, a poor enough performance against Derry. We have had our ups and our downs, our good days and our bad days.

“We really need some consistency, and find a performance level that we can maintain.”

Three members of the All-Ireland winning U21 side – Cathal McShane, Rory Brennan and Mark Bradley – are already established members of the senior squad.

McCrory believes it won’t be long before others will follow, although the Anglo-Celt Cup opener will come too soon for any dramatic promotions.

“There’s a few of them there in the squad already. They’re great players, and that will have done them great.

“For the boys that aren’t on the squad, it’s great to get that level of football, and that competitiveness.


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