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Eamonn McEnaney learns from master Mickey Harte

By John Cambell

One of Mickey Harte's self-confessed admirers will make a bold bid to put one over him on Sunday.

Eamonn McEnaney is preparing to dip his toe into the Ulster Championship waters for the first time as manager of Monaghan against Tyrone and will do so suitably armed with information, statistics and motivational tools gleaned from a close study of the Red Hands supremo over recent years.

"I have studied Tyrone closely for the past five or six years and learned a great deal in the process. I am an admirer of Mickey Harte because of the qualities that he is able to elicit from his teams. Among these are honesty and endeavour and that's what I will be looking for from my Monaghan side in this Ulster championship," states McEnaney.

His side may have suffered relegation to Division Two in the National League but McEnaney, who gave outstanding service to Monaghan as a player, acknowledges that the competition proved a "learning curve" for his players the benefits from which could now be witnessed in the championship.

"The game against Tyrone will be a huge challenge for my players. Tyrone have been the best team in Ulster over the last number of years and will be hot favourites. But we must show that we can cope with this and prove to ourselves that we are progressing," insists McEnaney.

Perseverance, hard work and commitment will, he feels, be pre-requisites if Monaghan are to have any chance of booking a semi-final engagement with Donegal or Cavan.

Monaghan are without a platoon of their most experienced players for a variety of reasons yet McEnaney feels that the importance of Sunday's game can bring out the best in his young guns.

"Obviously when you are going in against a team like Tyrone without people like Rory Woods, John Paul Mone, Gary McQuaid, Dermot McArdle and the Freeman brothers, Tommy and Damaien, you're at a disadvantage, but I believe that the new players in our side will stand up to be counted on Sunday," insists McEnaney.

The respect in which he holds Harte and his team is by no means a one-way affair.

The Tyrone boss is quick to appraise the headway Monaghan have made this year even though they were demoted in the league.

"They put up some very good performances against the top sides in the country and will have gained from that. Their new management set-up has been doing well when all the circumstances are taken into account and we are preparing for a really tough battle," observes Harte.

On the twin scores of experience and tradition Tyrone find themselves in pole position to make it into the semi-finals.

Brian Dooher, Conor Gormley, Sean Cavanagh, Stephen O'Neill, Brian McGuigan, Owen Mulligan, Ryan McMenamin, Kevin Hughes and Davy Harte represent a virtual encyclopaedia of craft, power and commitment.

Monaghan are not exactly bereft of streetwise campaigners - Paul Finlay, Dessie Mone, Dick Clerkin, Darren Hughes and Eoin Lennon have been round the block a few times - but they may be lacking in the overall physicality and guile that can prove such vital elements in the heat of championship battle.

The central spine of their defence is in for a severe test while skipper Clerkin in particular will need to reach a new peak at midfield if his side is to gain even parity of esteem here never mind possible dominance.

Goalkeeper Mark Keogh and Colin Walsh are among the young guns currently propping up the Monaghan rearguard in the ongoing absence of the more combative Dermot McArdle and John Paul Mone, and they and their colleagues could find themselves fully extended by the impish Mulligan and the elegant O'Neill.

Unless Monaghan can restrict the influence of playmaker Brian McGuigan, win their share of breaking ball - always difficult when Dooher is hovering with intent - and maximise what may be rather limited scoring opportunities they will find themselves focussing on the first round of the Qualifiers rather than on a last four place in the provincial championship.

But whatever the outcome of this game, it seems certain that the mutual admiration between Harte and McEnaney will remain untarnished.

Belfast Telegraph

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