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Mickey Harte grasps chance to rebuild Tyrone

By John Campbell

The retirements of such high-profile Tyrone players as Stephen O'Neill, Martin Penrose and Conor Gormley have served to keep the focus on the past of late.

But tomorrow will see manager Mickey Harte formally launch his bid to ensure that the focus is kept very much on the future.

His team will confront arch-rivals Armagh in the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup at the Athletic Grounds and while Harte has cause to regret the loss of a huge ration of experience, he is nonetheless committed to a rebuilding process that may not be without its hitches.

Replacing players who have been part of the furniture in successful teams is never easy but Harte has shown in the past that he has the credentials to lay the foundations for further glory with fresh faces.

Tomorrow marks a renewed test of his capabilities in this connection and he enthusiastically embraces the challenge.

"The opportunity is there for players to show what they can do," points out Harte. "There is nothing like competitive games in which to assess those who are willing to give the necessary commitment."

His squad is a blend of youth and experience with old hands such as the Cavanagh brothers Sean and Colm, Justin McMahon, Peter Harte, Aidan McCrory and others joined by an infusion of emerging talent.

PJ Lavery, Mickey O'Neill, Dwayne Quinn, Padraig McNulty, Cathal McShane and Rory Brennan are just some of the players who are hoping to copper-fasten places in the Tyrone side on a regular basis this year.

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney, meanwhile, is preparing to face the 'auld enemy' without experienced campaigners.

No Crossmaglen Rangers representatives are included in his squad but the door has been opened again to players such as Declan McKenna and Gavin McParland to show that they have regained their appetite for action at this level having been cast aside some time ago.

Defensively, skipper Ciaran McKeever, Finian Moriarty and the emerging Mark Shields can help bring stability.

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