Tyrone manager Mickey Harte is concentrating on his own team’s preparations for the Ulster Championship even though there is now speculation that a combination of emigration and injuries could damage the prospects of first round opponents Monaghan.
While Harte has been disappointed by the Tyrone Hearings Committee’s decision to turn down skipper Brian Dooher’s appeal against the red card he received while playing for his club Clan na gael against Loughmacrory, Monaghan boss Eamonn McEnaney admits that the departure of long-serving forward Tommy Freeman for England in search of work is “a big blow”.
With three rounds of games in the Tyrone All County League having already been staged, Dooher has only been able to assist his club in one game and is destined to miss another two matches.
He made his comeback to the Tyrone side as a sub in the National League win over Kildare before being summoned from the bench again against Meath, but his one-month ban means he will be denied match practice before the showdown with Monaghan.
Harte, though, has received a dual boost after Philip Jordan confirmed that he will be available for the championship and Justin McMahon played a full game for Omagh St Enda’s in their defeat by Errigal Ciaran on Saturday.
It is understood that the 2008 Allstar full-back came through the tie unscathed having been out of action for a number of weeks with a serious hamstring injury.
But McMahon’s brother Joe is still sidelined with a broken jaw while Enda McGinley is striving to regain full fitness following a leg injury.
Harte, though, believes he can plug any potential gaps in his side for the forthcoming Healy Park, Omagh showdown with a Monaghan team which the Red Hands humbled in last year’s Ulster final.
But Harte is emphatic that the outcome of that particular showdown has been firmly consigned to the history books.
“Monaghan are a much better team than that. They were very unfortunate to suffer relegation to Division Two in the National League and ran some of the top teams very close in that competition, particularly Dublin and Cork,” insists Harte.
McEnaney admitted that the absence of the experienced Freeman, in particular, from his attack will be felt, and added: “We have a few injury worries as well.”