TYRONE’S Seán Cavanagh has argued the difference between Allianz NFL Division 1 and 2 this season is negligible.
The Red Handers’ pride took a major hit last season when they were demoted from the top-flight on scoring difference. But with five teams still in the running for the two promotion places, the competition for promotion is fierce.
“You look at the possibility of Meath being relegated and I think that says it all,” said Cavanagh.
“There isn’t an awful lot between Division 1 and Division 2, to be honest. We’ve been in Division 1 the last number of years and we’ve probably been given the same challenges as we are now in Division 2.
“From the point of view of preparing for the championship, some would prefer to be playing in Division 1 but you’re still getting some really good football and opposition in Division 2.
“If it is five or 10% lower than Division 1, it maybe gives you a chance to pick up your confidence and it’s starting to flow with this Tyrone team.”
Cavanagh admits the tragic death of Michaela McAreavey, Mickey Harte’s daughter, affected pre-season preparations. But now they are back in the swing of things, the Ulster champions will be going all-out to beat Kildare and Meath for a spot in the Division 2 final.
A trip to Croke Park, Cavanagh says, would give Tyrone the opportunity to dispel some bad memories from their quarter-final defeat to Dublin last year.
“We’re not out until the first week of June (in the Ulster championship) so it’s important because there is going to be a break and we’ll be going back to the clubs. It will be nice to get an extra game in there and obviously playing in Croke Park because we didn’t do ourselves justice there the last time.
“It would be nice to banish a few of those memories so that we’re ready going into Monaghan in early June.”
Cavanagh believes the fixtures have also played a part in Tyrone’s revival, the back-to-back games against relegation-troubled Sligo and Antrim helped build much-needed momentum.
“After the Donegal game, there was good bit of soul searching. After that, we had a chance to rebuild our confidence against Sligo and Antrim, which probably wouldn’t have been the most difficult challenge in the world.
“We got our confidence back to a certain level and knew the Laois game was going to be make-or-break.
“After a couple of five- or six-point wins, the confidence starts coming back. We’re heading in the right direction. It’s going to be difficult against another two Leinster teams in Meath and Kildare but if we can pull off another couple of wins, who knows where that may lead us?”
Cavanagh has revealed the panel should be at full strength by the start of next month. “We’ve been training well and some of the injuries are beginning to clear. We’ll have Philip Jordan back for the next game and (Brian) Dooher’s not too far away so things are starting to look up.”
He also complimented his brother Colm’s bravery in jumping high and at speed with Laois goalkeeper Darren Maher to score Tyrone’s goal on Saturday night. “My dad would have been known to have been a courageous footballer and Colm went up well.
“He actually got a bit of a slap in the second half and had to go off with a sore head but I’m sure he’s happy with the goal and long may it continue.”
By John Fogarty, Irish Examiner