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Canavan’s Harte act to follow

By John Campbell

Peter Canavan is adamant that he will take one step at a time in his role as Fermanagh football manager.

The gradual, secure rehabilitation of the Erne side is his priority rather than a quick-fix solution which might provide nothing more than temporary respite from the shattered morale and public embarrassment endured by the county last year.

Yet even though he has only been on active duty in the job for a matter of weeks, Canavan harbours his own particular managerial ambitions.

Tonight will offer him the incentive to take a step in the pursuit of such ambitions when his Fermanagh side confront Tyrone at Healy Park, Omagh in a Section A Power NI Dr McKenna Cup tie that holds all the appeal of a championship encounter.

And just along the touchline from Canavan will be Mickey Harte, the Red Hands boss with whom he enjoyed such a special rapport during the greatest spell in Tyrone’s history, the pair combining for two All-Ireland triumphs.

If Canavan achieved demi-god status as a player, then Harte’s place among the pantheon of truly great managers is already assured.

“I’m still wet behind the ears. Learning the game at inter-county level takes time and I am just taking things as they come,” observes Canavan.

“Mickey Harte has acquired legendary status as a manager and rightly so,” he says.

Yet although he has absorbed lessons from Harte and admires his philosophy, Canavan is very much his own man.

“Mickey can bring out the best in players and has great motivational skills as well as being a very shrewd tactician.

“He has brought Tyrone a level of success that many never thought possible,” he states.

“His commitment and enthusiasm are absolute.”

The duo shared in the best year in the history of the Errigal Ciaran club when the Tyrone and Ulster club titles were won in 1993 before embarking on the careers that would make both folk heroes not just within the GAA but within the wider fabric of Irish sport.

Tonight for the first time they will be in opposite corners but pursuing the same goal — the ongoing revitalisation of their sides.

While Fermanagh’s struggle in Division Four and All-Ireland Championship exit at the hands of minnows London amounted to nothing short of a catastrophe, Tyrone’s humiliation by Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-final was perceived as a disaster.

That’s why tonight’s game, holding as it does the rich promise of further progress, is significant.

“Everyone knows the quality in this Tyrone set-up even though some high-profile players have retired,” says Canavan.

Thousands of fans of both sides are relishing the clash while the result will be awaited with interest by the wider GAA fraternity.

Harte has made a number of changes for tonight's game and his new-look attack contains a core of experience with Stephen O'Neill at full-forward, Martin Penrose at centrethreequarters and Tommy McGuigan in the right corner.

TYRONE: J Devine; A McCrory, C McCarron, PJ Quinn; S O'Neill, P Harte, D Carlin; M Murphy, C Cavanagh; P Hughes, M Penrose, Matthew Donnelly; T McGuigan, S O'Neill, J Lafferty.

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