Tyrone travel to Killarney with ‘bit between their teeth’

Ronan McNabb happy to be back playing and putting it up to rivals Kerry

Tyrone travel to Kerry without a handful of key players, but defender Ronan McNabb says they must believe they can carve out a result on their bogey ground in a bid to salvage a crumbling league campaign.

All-Star midfielder Mattie Donnelly is suspended, having been handed a proposed one-match ban as a result of an incident which occurred at the end of last Sunday's defeat to Mayo.

And full back Ronan McNamee also misses out, having broken a bone in a hand while challenging for a ball in the latter stages of that Healy Park tie.

Defeat at Fitzgerald Stadium will mean the end of the Red Hands' chances of making the NFL Division One final, and sent them into their Ulster Championship opener against Derry on the back of three losses on the bounce.

A fierce rivalry dating back to 2003, when Tyrone rocked the Kingdom in the All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park, will be renewed, with Kerry needing a win to be absolutely certain of avoiding relegation, and the Ulster champions knowing that victory is essential, yet possibly not enough to get them to the league decider.

“At the end of the day, whoever is on the pitch, we will have our own plan and tactics and it’s up to us to put in a good performance,” said McNabb.

“Hopefully we’ll get a win, we’ve a chance to get to the league final and we’d really like that. Whatever happens we’ll be making the most of it and putting in a good game-plan to come out with the win.”

Heavy reversal

Tyrone have had little joy from recent visits to Killarney in league and championship, suffering a heavy reversal when the sides met in an All-Ireland qualifier tie in 2012.

“Kerry always raise their game for Tyrone over the last couple of years with the history between the teams from ’03, ’05 and ’08,” says McNabb.

“Definitely whenever they see Tyrone they raise their game. We’ve had two bad results so we’ll be coming down with the bit between our teeth as well. Hopefully it’ll make for a good game.

“It was very disappointing last time down in Killarney. We were going well until half-time and then the floodgates opened. I think we’ve improved a lot since then.

“Kerry’s blooding in a lot of young boys and there’s a lot of new faces in our team as well. It’s two different teams more or less, obviously Kerry have that history and tradition and won’t want to be beaten in Killarney on the last day of the league.”

The injury-prone Dromore man made his first start of the season in last weekend’s narrow defeat to Mayo at Healy Park.

Following several weeks of frustration in his journey towards full fitness, he’s hoping he will encounter no further setbacks.

“It was a couple of frustrating weeks with injury. It’s nice to get back but it’s just disappointing with the result.

“The first half was played at championship pace. The second-half was much the same and I kind of struggled as I’m not used to it over the past couple of weeks.

“Hopefully it’ll stand me in good stead for the rest of the season. It’s good to get back and get a bit of game time and hopefully that’ll be the end of the injuries.”