Tyrone's young guns will come good - McMenamin
Late last year Sean Cavanagh was unequivocal. Tyrone were, he insisted, still contenders.
It wasn't just posturing either. The Moy man went on to say that if he thought they were also-rans, he'd stay at home with his two young girls rather than chase something unattainable.
However, last week's defeat to Monaghan gave traction to the notion that the Red Hands were in trouble.
The Tyrone teams Cavanagh grew up with always had their uncompromising characters that made sure they could mix the pretty and the gritty. Against the Farney men, the gritty was missing.
Afterwards, Mickey Harte agreed that they hadn't been good enough but there was no grandstanding or recriminations, just a promise to try harder. The season would have its turns. Harte's 200-plus games in charge of the county told him that much.
Cavanagh previously insisted that Tyrone now boast "five or six of the best inside forwards in Ulster, if not Ireland" but they were learning on the hoof and there were some hard lessons along the way. Last year, the were outmuscled at home by Armagh to end their championship campaign. Monaghan too turned them over.
Ryan McMenamin (right) agrees that they need time. A redemptive win in Castlebar on Sunday saw a return to old values - substance came before style. They frustrated a Mayo side flying high from their opening- day win in Killarney.
"I was slightly worried," former All-Star McMenamin admitted after seeing the Red Hand go down to Monaghan.
"I know there were people taking shots at them but it was the first game in the league. I remember losing to Roscommon in the first round of the league one year and getting pilloried.
"But Monaghan are a very good team. People forget that and they seem to have the edge on Tyrone at the minute. They are a bit of a bogey team."
Against Mayo they redressed the balance. Darren McCurry's ability to kick points is well known but he put in a huge shift. McMenamin says there's more to come too from the likes of Ronan O'Neill and some of the other celebrated underage players. Throw in Cathal McCarron's return and Conor Clarke's rehabilitation and Tyrone have a new depth to their squad.
"Those young lads are great footballers. They won it all at minor and U-21 and it might be taking them a little longer to come through than a lot of them thought," he said.
"But the nature of the game has changed. When there's 12 or 13 men behind the ball it's harder to stand out. You have to learn how to play in that because it can be frustrating.
"Darren has impressed me and showed some great work rate. He's bulked up a bit too, he's dedicated and does his work.
"For these lads it's about learning. Mickey is giving them time. With any young team there's going to be high points and low points. It's about getting a level of consistency now.
"A lot of those lads haven't won anything at senior. That's the next step for them as a team."