TYRONE Minor manager Gerard Donnelly says defensive structures will need to be fortified in his team if the Ulster Championship title is to be retained.
The Red Hands scored heavily in their first round defeat of Cavan at O’Neills Healy Park, but also conceded a significant tally, and were exposed at various stages of a fast-moving contest.
Donnelly has pledged to concentrate on these areas of concern on the training ground at Garvaghey this week as he prepares for the next challenge, a second round clash with Antrim at Corrigan Park, Belfast on the weekend after next.
And he has the right men in his coaching entourage to address the failings that emerged at Omagh, with All-Ireland winning defenders Conor Gormley and Ciaran Gourley in the backroom set-up, as well as Gary Hetherington, a noted wing back who played in an All-Ireland Minor final.
Tyrone emerged with a 3-17 to 1-15 win to clear the first hurdle and move on to a meeting with the Saffrons, who scored an impressive win over Monaghan in their opener.
Donnelly was pleased with the accuracy of his side, with the entire total coming from play, but commented: “I would look at the other side. 1-15 was a lot to concede.
“They got in for easy scores there, and it’s something we’ll definitely have to work on, because 1-15 is worrying.
“We were good going forward, but the defence is something that has to be tightened up, because it was just too easy.
“As we move forward, that just won’t do, because we were just too open at the back at times, and we need to tighten up.”
It took Tyrone some time to get into the rhythm of the game, with big-match nerves affecting some of the players as Cavan raced into an early lead.
“It took us a wee while to get up to the intensity of it,” said Donnelly.
“Cavan really brought the intensity in the first 15 minutes, and I’m just relieved to get out of here.
“The League is totally different, it’s a totally different animal, and I was nervous today, because it’s a big occasion.
“The boys were coming here off the back of that League win even maybe expecting to light it up.
“But it doesn’t happen like that. I have studied Cavan, I have watched them and they’re a good team. Cavan had a really good League campaign as well, and it’s a relief to get over it, because there were parts of that game you were looking and saying, this could go either way here.
“That was just crazy stuff and it definitely wasn’t an eight-point game.
“Cavan really threw everything at us, and we were asked serious questions, and I’m just delighted to get over the line, because that was intense stuff.”
An early injury to midfielder Sean Hughes forced the manager’s hand, and other players were replaced at various stages, but Donnelly was pleased with the performances of those who came off the bench, demonstrating ample depth within the squad.
“All the lads that came in did well, and the lads that were taken off, they were just spent, they had used up all their energy.”
Team captain Eoin McElholm, the only survivor from the team that reached last year’s All-Ireland final, led by example, scoring 1-6, creating many other scores and inspiring those around him.
“Eoin definitely led us at times whenever we needed scores.
“But fair play to Cavan. Every time we thought we were away, they just kept coming back.
“And that gives us something to work on. You can’t conceded a goal and then concede straight away again.
“We wanted to come here and get a win, and still keep that wee buffer of a second chance if things didn’t happen.”
Cavan go into the Qualifier stream, but Donnelly feels they will emerge again and have a say in the destination of the provincial title.
“Let me tell you something, that Cavan team, they’re not out of this yet either, they’re a damned good team and they have some tasty players."