After a dismal defence of Sam Maguire last year, the last thing Tyrone want for 2023 is to be heading into this year's championship on the back of a poor league campaign.

Sunday’s opening round defeat to Roscommon, in such a competitive top-flight, has the Ulster side already with work to do and former player Peter Canavan says the signs of what he has seen from the early evidence is "worrying".

A McKenna Cup final defeat to Derry was far from the end of the world, but not only the defeat itself in Dr Hyde Park, but the trends appearing are what is giving Canavan grounds for concern.

A Kieran McGeary goal 12 minutes into the second half gave Tyrone a three-point cushion, but the Rossies plundered three goals of their own to take the win.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Game On, the two-time All-Ireland winner outlined some of his county’s recent problems.

"From a Tyrone perspective, it’s worrying," he said, backing up a point made by former team-mate Sean Cavanagh on Allianz League Sunday.

"They don’t appear to be playing as a unit at the minute. They are tiring badly. I think it’s too simplistic just to say fitness is a problem in the last couple of games.

"Unlike Dublin, for example, who had been resting a lot of players in pre-season competition – I think over three competitive games Dublin made use of 45 players – Tyrone haven’t.

"By and large they have fielded fairly strong teams in the McKenna Cup and got to the final, so we were up and running.

"We were expecting a victory in Roscommon.

"You talk about fine margins. We were three points up midway through the second half, Darren McCurry had a great goal chance, but the ball slipped out of his grasp and the chance of going six clear with a stiff breeze went.

"From that moment on, Roscommon took control and they were by far the better team in the last 10 minutes and deserved their victory."

Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan’s side must dust themselves down for the visit of Donegal this weekend, before successive away trips to Galway and Mayo respectively.

In round five they welcome All-Ireland champions Kerry, so the challenge is a significant one to avoid a relegation scrap.

"It’s Donegal on Sunday and it’s imperative that we get a result there and get points on the board because there are a lot of really difficult games coming up after that.

"We certainly don’t want to fighting a relegation battle come March."

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